Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Inkyard Press: Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros

Chronicle Prism: Men in Blazers Present Gods of Soccer: The Pantheon of the 100 Greatest Soccer Players (According to Us) by Roger Bennett, Michael Davies, and Miranda Davis; illustrated by Nate Kitch

Neal Porter Books: I Don't Care by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Tor Nightfire: The Spite House by Johnny Compton

Candlewick Press (MA): Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens, illustrated by Monica Mikai

Popular Book Company (Usa): Complete Curriculum Success Series, Math Success Series, English Success Series, 365 Fun Days

Yen on: Fox Tales by Tomihiko Morimi, translated by Winifred Bird


Basket Books & Art Comes to Houston, Tex.

A bookstore and art gallery called Basket Books & Art has opened in Houston, Tex., Glasstire reported. Located in Houston's Montrose neighborhood, the shop features a bookstore on its first floor and a 700-square-foot exhibition space on the second.

Co-owners and couple Laura Hughes and Edwin Smalling plan to host five or six exhibitions per year featuring artists from the Houston area as well as around the world. Exhibitions will typically run for about two months. HOLLOWS, Basket's first exhibition, features the work of Brandon Araujo and Ben Peterson; it opened May 28 and will run until the end of July.

"Our goal is to offer a unique context in which art and books can co-mingle in exciting ways, opening up alleyways of conversation," Smalling and Hughes told Glasstire. "We aim to provide a space for creative and intellectual exchange through our inventory and programming, and to offer Houston’s diverse arts and intellectual communities something for the mind, a portal to the world of art, writing, and thought writ large."

They noted that the bookstore and art gallery is named after Basket, the poodle belonging to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, who "lived immersed in the art and intellectual avant-garde of their day."

Tiny Reparations Books: Gone Like Yesterday by Janelle M. Williams

Bob's Bookstore Opens in Salem, Ohio

Bob's Bookstore, a new and used bookstore with an eclectic mix of around 1,000 titles, opened for business in Salem, Ohio, about six weeks ago. Owner Bob Greier told the Salem News that it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

The bookstore is located in a collection of shops called Courtyard Square, on Salem's East State Street. There are books for all ages and everything from classics to Stephen King novels to Chicken Soup for the Soul. The store has tables at which customers can sit and relax, and there is a free coffee stand. He is adjusting his inventory based on customer feedback, and he noted that Colleen Hoover's books have proved especially popular. 

Greier is an author himself and has a varied professional background including machinery, lawn care and teaching. He told the News that when it comes to success, "if I am able to spend my time with like-minded people, then I am successful."

GLOW: Disney-Hyperion: Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow

Blue Umbrella Books Gets Temporary Lease Extension

Blue Umbrella Books in Westfield, Mass., which announced in early June that it would be relocating instead of closing, will be able to remain in its present space until July 31, the Westfield News reported. Owner Russell Atwood said he was able to come up with the funds to extend his lease a month as he continues to seek a new location. He is hopeful that he may be able to move into one of the several vacant storefronts elsewhere in the city’s downtown.

"Were it not for the signage advertising July 31 as the last day, one may not even know that anything was amiss when walking into Blue Umbrella," the Westfield News wrote. "The shelves are just about full and Atwood can be observed tending to customers and organizing the store. The shelves have remained full of books as Atwood had a lot of his inventory in the store’s basement, which he has been using to restock his shelves as customers pick up $1 values." In the middle of the sales floor is a large model tree, based on the tree from To Kill a Mockingbird. Atwood is auctioning it off to raise funds for the store. 

Harper: Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

International Update: French Book Sales Decline in 2022; Revisiting the 'Bookseller of Kabul'

French book publishers' sales so far this year are down nearly 6%, but are more than 10% higher than the same period of 2019 before the Covid pandemic began, the Bookseller reported. Pierre Dutilleul, director of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l'Edition), said: "We have no need to worry for the moment. It is very difficult to predict the result for the full year, but I would expect a slight drop from 2021, which is normal after such an exceptional year."

Dutilleul noted that the 2022 first-half percentages follow confirmation from the SNE recently that sales rose last year by 9.7% over 2019 and 12.4% over 2020, for a total of €3.01billion (about $3.18 billion). Excluding school textbooks, the year-on-year increase in 2021 was 17.7%. 

In 2021 the number of copies sold increased by 15.3%, to 486.1 million, from 421.6 million a year earlier, reflecting the government's recognition of bookshops as an "essential trade" during most of the Covid-19 pandemic, the SNE said.

The number of titles published grew by 12.5%, to 109,480 in 2021 from 97,326 the year before, partly to catch up with delayed schedules during the months of lockdown. Paperbacks had a "very good year," according to the SNE. The number of copies sold rose 12.8% from 2020 to 121.4 million, and generated a 14.4% increase in publishers' income in this sector to €421.7 million (about $446.2 million). The figures are gathered from about 150 publishing houses, representing more than 650 imprints.


Shah Muhammad Rais, who gained international fame due to Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad's bestseller The Bookseller of Kabul, has "survived a succession of repressive regimes in Afghanistan. But two decades later he is living in a London Home Office hotel, having fled the Taliban to claim asylum in the U.K.," the Guardian reported. Rais arrived in the U.K. last September and claimed asylum at the airport. He is waiting for his case to be processed and is currently living alongside other asylum seekers from various conflict zones.

"The U.K. was the only door open to me to be safe from the Taliban," he said. 

His Kabul bookshop "is still open following the Taliban takeover, along with an online bookstore," the Guardian wrote. "He proudly hands over his business card--Shah M. Book Co, printers, publishers, booksellers, Shah Muhammad Rais, managing director."

Noting that he is unsure if the shop, established in 1974, can withstand the current challenges from the Taliban, Rais observed: "Very few are buying books now. I will keep the bookshop open as long as possible, maybe the Taliban will ban it or destroy it."

Rais and members of his family brought a legal action against Seierstad, claiming The Bookseller of Kabul was inaccurate and invasive, but after a "protracted legal battle an appeal court in Norway cleared the author of invading the privacy of the family and concluded the facts of the book were accurate," the Guardian wrote.

"If I am granted permission to work in the U.K., I would love to open an Afghan reading room at the British Library," Rais said. "I'm writing a book on Afghan land, culture and history and would like to open a multicultural, multi-language bookshop here for people from the region--from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran. That is what I'm dreaming of."


Buchhandlung LeseZeichen, a bookshop in Germering, Germany, is trying out a new customer-oriented approach to bookshelf organization. The European & International Booksellers Federation Newsflash reported that the system "is inspired by VLB, the central research platform for the German-language book trade, which organizes its database through so-called reading motifs. Through this system, each book is given one main motif, such as 'laugh' (for light-hearted, humorous books) or 'immerse' (for books that transport readers into a new fictitious universe). Katrin Schmidt, owner of LeseZeichen, is now implementing this structure in her bookshop, hoping to offer her customers a smoother shopping experience." --Robert Gray

BINC: Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship

Sacco Company Catholic Store, Houston, Tex., Severely Damaged in Fire

The Sacco Company Catholic Store in downtown Houston, Tex., was severely damaged after a fire broke out in the 6,000-square-foot Catholic bookstore. According to the Catholic News Agency, the fire started around 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, and the cause is still under investigation.

The store remains closed, though the Sacco Company has a sister store, Veritas Catholic Bookstore, in west Houston that is open for business. The company is also selling books through its website, though most of its inventory was kept in the main store and is now lost.

"It's a pretty big blow," store owner Andrew Sacco told CNA. "It's a family-owned business. We've been in that location for over 30 years. It's a significant blow to us."


Cool Idea of the Day: A Bookstore's Bicycle Repair Station

Bennett's Books, a used bookstore in Deep River, Conn., now has a free bicycle repair station for customers and community members to use. The station features a bike rack as well as tools and an air pump. Located outside of the bookstore, it is accessible to all during daylight hours.

Owner Colin Bennett told the Middletown Press that the store's focus is on creating community and helping others. "If there's any money left after paying our bills, what’s left goes into the community--helping people by encouraging and fostering bicycle culture here; making sure no kid goes to bed hungry, and kids have access to books."

Bennett put the repair station together with the help of community donations. In the past, his store has featured a seed-sharing station, a plant swap and a community fridge. The Press noted that he is currently applying for nonprofit status.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jay Wellons on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Jay Wellons, author of All That Moves Us: A Pediatric Neurosurgeon, His Young Patients, and Their Stories of Grace and Resilience (Random House, $28, 9780593243367).

Today Show: Daniel Silva, author of Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A Novel (Harper, $29.99, 9780062834850).

Late Late Show with James Corden repeat: Minnie Driver, author of Managing Expectations: A Memoir in Essays (HarperOne, $27.99, 9780063115309).

Movies: Dune Part II

"The journey back to the desert planet of Arrakis may take longer than expected," according to Variety, which reported that Dune: Part Two, the second chapter in the Warner Bros. and Legendary sci-fi epic based on Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel, has been postponed and will now open in theaters on November 17, 2023, instead of October 20, 2023.

Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem are returning for Dune: Part Two, with Florence Pugh, Austin Butler and Christopher Walken joining the cast. Director Denis Villeneuve is expected to start filming the sequel later this year.

Books & Authors

Awards: Desmond Elliott, Commonwealth Short Story Overall Winners

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer has won the £10,000 (about $11,940) 2022 Desmond Elliott Prize, which celebrates the best first novel published in the U.K. or Ireland.

Organizers called Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies "a lyrical exploration of one woman's body and the illness that inhabits it."

Chair of judges Derek Owusu said, "This is a book full of poetry and wonder, interior and exterior examination, sadness, though without the pessimism that sometimes accompanies it, love, and through all things, hope. You'll re-read passages like pulling a song back to its start, wanting to evoke and experience those chills, or be enlightened again and again. Though not easy to choose a winner--we went back and forth for days after the decision was due--when we finally came to an agreement, we felt confident that we would be assisting with, and bearing witness to, the launching of a new and spectacular talent."


Ntsika Kota was named overall winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and will receive £5,000 (about $6,135) for his work "and the earth drank deep." Kota is the first person from Eswatini to take the prize.

Chair of judges Fred D'Aguiar said: "This year's winner is an instant classic: a linear narrative in the tradition of the realist short story. The events unfold around a central ethical conceit with tension that accumulates, and a surprise ending leaves the reader with many questions and in a state of provocation. The deceitfully simple and straightforward style rubs against an artful orchestration of tension. The writer controls elements of character and plot to captivate the most skeptical of readers. The reader inherits a host of hot topics for discussion at the end of the story all of which shine back at the reader's world. Like the best parables the result is an interplay between story and reality, invention and the quotidian, the writer's imagination and the world of the reader."

Reading with... Alexis Schaitkin

photo: Ashley Weeks Cart

Alexis Schaitkin's debut novel, Saint X, is soon to be a Hulu series. It has been translated into seven languages and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2020. Her short stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their two children. Her newest novel, Elsewhere (Celadon Books, June 28, 2022), is a dark fable of motherhood.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

In an isolated, cloud-covered town in the mountains, mothers vanish into thin air. The Handmaid's Tale meets Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," with Midsommar vibes.

On your nightstand now:

Trust by Hernan Diaz. I love books that contain embedded narratives. The Plot is a recent one I've devoured. I'm in the early stages of writing one of my own right now, so when I first read the description of Trust, over a year ago, I was desperate to read it. I went to my local bookstore on pub day to buy it.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer. It's about a girl who lives near the ruins of an old, abandoned village, and she discovers that on foggy days, if she walks into the mist, she can travel back in time to when this place was inhabited. I didn't realize how much it had influenced the magical aspects of Elsewhere until I was almost done writing it.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, Shirley Jackson, William Trevor, Kazuo Ishiguro.

Book you've faked reading:

Little Women! As a kid, I found the parts about Jo's life in New York City so boring that I never finished it. But all my friends read it, so I pretended I had, too. I have a vivid, very embarrassing memory of going to see the 1994 film starring Winona Ryder with my best friend and having to act like I knew everything that was going to happen, when I really had no idea.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Lately I'm very into novels that sustain a single mood from start to finish, so that reading them is like falling under a spell. This book does that better than any I've ever read. It's atmospheric and unsettling, almost like finding yourself trapped inside of an illustration. (And, appropriately, Piranesi was an Italian artist who sketched elaborate illustrations of imagined prisons.)

Book you've bought for the cover:

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder. Well, I bought it for the premise, too--it's about a new mom who begins transforming into a dog. The cover is incredibly eye-catching, shocking and sexy.

Book you hid from your parents:

I was lucky not to have the kind of parents I had to hide books from!

Book that changed your life:

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. It was the first time I'd read a novel that was incredibly structurally inventive, but where not a single element felt gimmicky. The sum of all the novel's playfulness was extremely moving. I was just shocked to find myself crying after reading a chapter composed of PowerPoint slides. It was like magic, and I read that chapter over and over, trying to understand how Egan did it. It made me want to take more risks in my own writing.

Favorite line from a book:

"Indeed--why should I not admit it?--at that moment, my heart was breaking," from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. It's such a simple line, but it just kills me; the restrained narrator finally letting himself be open about his pain, just for a moment. I read an interview with Ishiguro where he said he decided to write this line after listening to the gorgeous Tom Waits song "Ruby's Arms," which has the same powerful tension between reserve and release.

Five books you'll never part with:

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger was my favorite illustrated book as a child, and I recommend it to everyone as a sweet bedtime story. This Is a Poem that Heals Fish by Jean-Pierre Siméon was my son's favorite when he was little; it explains what poetry is in such a beautiful way, with wonderful paintings. Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. was like my bible in high school, when I was very intense about long-distance running despite being extremely slow. I read Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry while traveling alone in my early 20s, and returning to it is like coming back to an old friend. James Baldwin's Another Country is probably the novel I've read in the last decade that has stayed with me the deepest.

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

The Hours by Michael Cunningham. The "twist" at the end isn't even really a twist; the clues are intentionally obvious, but somehow I didn't put the pieces together until the very end, and I wish I could have that surprise again.

Book Review

Children's Review: The Best Kind of Mooncake

The Best Kind of Mooncake by Pearl AuYeung (Page Street Kids, $18.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781645675563, September 27, 2022)

A lesson in kindness shifts a child's perspective with lifelong implications in Pearl AuYeung's warm and reflective picture book debut, The Best Kind of Mooncake.

"Once upon a morning in Hong Kong, in the alley of Lee Tung Street," a listless girl passes another day at her family's store amid the "beeping, bickering, and bartering" of the bustling marketplace. Today, though, a "thin, sweaty man" interrupts the routine with a "THWUMP!" and draws in listeners with his wailing journey of survival. The shopkeepers and hawkers quickly turn away, bored with this familiar story--"Bah! We've all been there, brother," one says. Later, over lunch, the child's mother notices the hungry man and prompts the girl to give him a mooncake, the very treat their mother had promised to give her and her brothers at the end of the day. Obediently but begrudgingly, the child delivers the double-yolked delicacy--"the best kind!"--and is appalled when the man "devoured the... mooncake in ONE GULP!" This act of kindness triggers an outpouring of help from other vendors, which, the girl's mother suggests, might be because "they remember that once upon a time, somebody helped them, too." Decades later, the man returns to their shop to offer mooncakes from the store he has opened nearby, closing the circle of kindness.

AuYeung's personal connection to this story is palpable, and an author's note explains it is based on true events in her family's past as Lee Tung Street shopkeepers. The first-person writing is thoughtful and deliberate and balances being inclusive of the reader with maintaining the instructive tone of its fairy-tale beginning. AuYeung creates through her digital illustrations an energetic, specific sense of place, with careful details such as piles of fruit, flapping pajamas and dangling roasted ducks among the stalls. Faces of even the background characters are highly expressive, and the pouting lower lip on the child is incomparable as she s-l-o-w-l-y delivers the mooncake. A wafting ribbon meant to evoke the street's dominant "smell of car fuel, herbal tea, and steamed cakes" reappears as a thematic hug throughout the amber-hued pages. The backmatter includes historical and family photographs as well as brief contextual background on Hong Kong's political history.

Like a double-yolk mooncake, this tender-hearted and culturally specific nod to the golden rule should be best enjoyed by sharing. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

Shelf Talker: A child who begrudgingly offers her own mooncake to a hungry traveler sets off a cascade of kindness in a warm and empathetic tale inspired by true events.

Powered by: Xtenit