Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Spiegel & Grau: Other People's Words: Friendship, Loss, and the Conversations That Never End by Lissa Soep

Berkley Books: The Sweet Blue Distance by Sara Donati

Chronicle Chroma: Addie Ant Goes on an Adventure by Maren Morris and Karina Argow, illustrated by Kelly Anne Dalton

Albatros Media: Words about Where: Let's Learn Prepositions by Magda Gargulakova, illustrated by Marie Urbankova

Blackstone Publishing: Ordinary Bear by C.B. Bernard

St. Martin's Griffin: One Last Shot by Betty Cayouette


Union at Politics & Prose Ratifies Contract

Yesterday Politics & Prose union booksellers voted 33-4 to ratify a contract with the bookstore, making it the first bookstore in Washington, D.C., to unionize and have a contract. The three-year contract covers approximately 50 workers at P&P, which has three stores in the District of Columbia.

Politics & Prose owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine said, "We're pleased to have reached mutual agreement with UFCW Local 400 on P&P's first union contract. The agreement incorporates key policies and practices that have been in place at P&P for years, affirming the bookstore's proud history of supporting our staff. Other provisions build on this history and will bring additional clarity and structure to P&P's operations. We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively and constructively with the union in achieving our joint goal of strengthening P&P for our community of readers."

Mark Federici, president of UFCW Local 400, said, "These workers reached a groundbreaking contract in record time. That's no small feat. While most contracts take well over a year to settle, thanks to the dedication and commitment these workers have to each other and their employer, they were able to reach an agreement in a matter of months. Today's achievement ensures that Politics and Prose will continue to succeed and serve the community well into the future."

John Fisher, a bookseller at P&P's Wharf location, said that the ratification vote "shows that the workers are eager to start this new chapter at Politics and Prose. It's not a mystery, it's not a thriller. When workers first considered unionizing, some people thought it was fantasy. But now it's a reality and I'm excited to find out what happens next."

Isa Salazar, a subscriptions coordinator who has worked at Politics & Prose for two years, said, "We are incredibly elated to have arrived here after eight months of hard work, and it is an honor to be part of this union organizing wave that is happening across the country. We wouldn't be where we are without the passion and care of everyone at the bookstore and I'm just overwhelmed and excited to see what happens next."

The union said that the contract "builds on P&P's already generous leave and fringe benefits programs to provide comprehensive benefits and union protections for the staff," which include:

"Better Pay. The contract does away with merit pay raises in favor of guaranteed annual increases based on experience. Each experience credit step increases in proportion to the annual D.C. minimum wage increase. As the minimum wage increases, the entire pay scale increases as well. For example, if the minimum wage increases by one dollar, current employees will receive a raise of one dollar in addition to their annual experience step increase.

"Better Scheduling. Schedules must be provided two weeks in advance and changes must be approved by the employee. Employees are also protected against discipline for tasks not completed due to understaffing.

"Provides 'just cause' protections from unjust discipline or firing.

"Establishes grievance procedure to resolve disputes with management.

"Expands on existing anti-discrimination language and incorporates provisions into the contract, which allows employees to pursue discrimination claims through the union grievance procedure.

"Establishes a Labor-Management committee for workers to address ongoing concerns with management."

Peachtree Teen: The Absinthe Underground by Jamie Pacton

Loving Room Comes to Seattle, Wash.

Loving Room: Diaspora Books + Salon, an 800-square-foot bookstore, reading room and community space with a focus on Black authors and stories, opened on Labor Day in Seattle, Wash., the Seattle Times reported.

Located at 1400 20th Avenue in Seattle's Central District, the bookstore sells fiction and nonfiction for children, teens and adults. The reading room features books on display that visitors are welcome to peruse but not purchase, and there are pieces of African art including a Yoruba throne, sculptures and a Dogon wooden medicine cabinet. Loving Room is in the same building as the Liink Project, a cooperative retail and event space that focuses on Black artists and Black-owned businesses. 

"It had to be now or never," said owner Kristina Clark, who told the Times she'd dreamed of opening a bookstore for 10 years. “I think I got to the point where I had to face the fact that, you know, it’s one thing to nurture this dream and to hold onto this dream, but without investing time, energy, effort and resources, that’s all it would be, which would be this dream and this hope.”

Clark left her job as a family programs manager at the nonprofit Families of Color Seattle in summer 2021. Earlier this year she began a GoFundMe campaign to help her launch Loving Room that has raised nearly $9,000. Those funds have helped with rent, fixtures and inventory, and in August Clark signed a three-year lease.

Loving Room opened with a soft launch of its reading room on August 21. As the bookstore and community space grows, Clark hopes to turn the reading room into a lending library and host author events, book club meetings and film screenings.

"I still felt that strong desire to create a space that's really about celebrating Black people in the fullness of who we are," Clark said, "where we can engage with literature and our histories, but not be policed for how we show up and how we do that."

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Bookie's New and Used Books Closing Homewood, Ill., Store

Bookie's New and Used Books in Homewood, Ill., will close permanently at the end of the month after nearly five years in business, owner Keith Lewis announced in a Facebook post last week. The closure, he explained, comes as the result of an "exorbitant rent increase" that, if agreed to, would likely jeopardize the future of not only the Homewood store but also the original Bookie's location in Beverly.

Lewis noted that although the Beverly location has always been the higher volume store, the Homewood location benefited from increased sales during local festivals and being the only bookstore in a 10-mile radius. He had thought those things were enough to ensure the Homewood store's future, but a deeper look at the numbers showed that "unaffordable rent was a lot lower than we thought" for the Homewood location. He realized that "if we continued, we'd probably lose both stores."

Despite the closure, Lewis hopes to continue serving the Homewood community in a variety of ways. The Bookie's team is working on a plan to deliver special-ordered books to people in the Homewood area on a weekly basis, and the store's partnerships with local schools and charities will continue. Bookie's might also make pop-up appearances in Homewood throughout the year.

"Homewood has wonderful people and beautiful families," the post continues. "Nothing made us happier than to see kids flipping through the pages of books and jumping up and down when they got the books they loved. We have until the end of the month to keep that up. But we're sincerely hoping that our relationship with Homewood isn’t at an end."

360 Media Direct Launches Booksio, Online Book and Magazine Retailer

360 Media Direct, the online marketing company with a background in the magazine industry, has launched Booksio, an online retailer of books and magazines that builds on Hummingbird Digital Media, the digital book and audiobook retailer it bought in 2020.

Booksio has more than 16 million titles available, including print books, digital books and magazines, as well as audiobooks. It will deliver digital books in EPUB or PDF formats that can be read using a web browser or the Booksio app, available for Apple and Android devices. The current Hummingbird app, My Must Readers, is being ended, and all customers will have their digital books available in their libraries at Booksio. Non-charitable organizations can partner with Booksio through branded storefronts and perks for employees or clients.

In addition, Booksio is offering a charitable donation feature. Every month, Booksio highlights one or two organizations as featured charities, which are promoted to the Booksio audience and receive 10% of all purchases for the month. Customers can also choose which charity benefits from their donation. Booksio has more than a hundred organizations to contribute to, a list that can be seen here.

Principal and co-founder Kelly Vucovich commented: "We wanted our values to drive Booksio's charitable giving. The list of charities we've brought together is passionate about both their work and the impact they're leaving on the world. They've made an enormous effort to make a difference, from providing a hot meal or working to overcome systemic inequalities."

Obituary Note: Sterling Lord

Sterling Lord, who for more than 60 years was one of New York's most successful and durable literary agents, died September 3. He was 102. The New York Times reported that although the list of well-known writers he represented is long, "his success began with an unknown named Jack Kerouac and his hard-to-sell novel On the Road." 

Lord was a fledgling Manhattan literary agent in 1952 when Kerouac "walked timidly into his office, a basement studio on East 36th Street, just off Park Avenue.... Inside Kerouac's weather-beaten knapsack and wrapped in a newspaper, Mr. Lord recalled, was a manuscript that Kerouac handed gingerly to him. It took Mr. Lord four years to sell the book, for a measly $1,000. But at last count, On the Road has sold five million copies and burned just as many gallons of gas as generations of young people have set out in search of either the America Kerouac saw or the ones that have taken its place," the Times wrote.

In 1987, Lord joined the agent Peter Matson to form Sterling Lord Literistic. Although Lord gradually yielded day-to-day management of the company and eventually sold his stock, "he continued to work, and into his 90s remained the highest-earning agent in the office," the Times noted, adding that his "last years with the agency were unhappy, however, as he came to feel that some of his colleagues were undermining him. In 2019, though suffering from the macular degeneration that had stopped his tennis game, he set up a new literary agency on his own."

The late Joe McGinniss said in 2013 that "Sterling's career encapsulated the rise and fall of literary nonfiction in post-World War II America. He was the last link to what we can now see not so much as a Golden Age, but as a brief, shining moment when long-form journalism mattered in a way it no longer does and may never again."

His client list included Jimmy Breslin, Art Buchwald, Willie Morris, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Howard Fast, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gordon Parks, Edward M. Kennedy, Robert S. McNamara, Frank Deford, David Wise, Nicholas Pileggi, Jeff Greenfield, Ken Kesey and the Berenstain Bears, among many others.

Lord "embraced Merry Pranksters and mobsters as well as more conventional types," the Times wrote, noting that his clients "appreciated his gentility, which appeared in ever-sharper relief as the book business became increasingly commercial and cutthroat. Dining with him, Mr. Greenfield recalled in another 2013 email, 'you felt as if you were in a different time--as if Maxwell Perkins might show up for coffee.' "

"A number of things about this business have really caught me and made it a compelling interest," Lord told the AP in 2013. "First, I'm interested in good writing. Second, I am interested in new and good ideas. And third, I've been able to meet some extraordinarily interesting people."


Image of the Day: The Band of Sisters in Times Square

Yesterday in Times Square in New York City, NASDAQ hosted the Band of Sisters, the authors of You Should Smile More: How to Dismantle Gender Bias in the Workplace (City Point Press) to celebrate their book launch. Pictured (l. to r.): authors Katie Lacey; Lori Tauber Marcus; Karen Snow, NASDAQ senior v-p and global head of U.S. listings; Cie Nicholson; Angelique Bellmer Krembs; Dawn Hudson; and Mitzi Short.

Rebecca Doel Joins Explore Booksellers, Aspen, Colo.

Rebecca Doel

Rebecca Doel has joined Explore Booksellers, Aspen, Colo., as assistant general manager. She was formerly director of marketing and events at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C.

She commented: "I loved my time at Quail Ridge Books, but I am looking forward to connecting with the community of Aspen and putting Explore on the map as a must-visit bookstore for bibliophiles."

Doel is the second Quail Ridge Books bookseller to join Explore Booksellers recently: general manager Jason Jefferies made the move earlier this year.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Grant Morrison on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Watch What Happens Live: Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, authors of The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781501178412).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Grant Morrison, author of Luda: A Novel (Del Rey, $28, 9780593355305).

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Ralph Macchio, author of Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me (Dutton, $28, 9780593185834).

On Stage: The Notebook

The Notebook, a new musical based on the 1996 novel by Nicholas Sparks, begins performances September 6 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Playbill reported. Directed by Michael Greif (Dear Evan Hansen, Rent) and Schele Williams (Aida, Motown the Musical) with choreography by Katie Spelman, the production is currently scheduled to run through October 16. 

The musical features a score by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson (The Way I Am, Girls Chase Boys) and a book by Bekah Brunstetter (NBC's This Is Us). The cast includes Joy Woods, Maryann Plunkett, John Cardoza, Jordan Tyson, Ryan Vasquez and John Beasley.

Books & Authors

Awards: Booker Shortlist; Scotiabank Giller Longlist

The six-title shortlist has been released for the 2022 Booker Prize for Fiction. The finalists each receive £2,500 (about $2,980) and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner, who gets a further £50,000 (about $59,650), will be announced October 17 during a prize ceremony at the Roundhouse in London. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Treacle Walker by Alan Garner
The Trees by Percival Everett
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

Chair of judges Neil MacGregor said: "These six books we believe speak powerfully about important things. Set in different places at different times, they are all about events that in some measure happen everywhere, and concern us all. Each written in English, they demonstrate what an abundance of Englishes there are, how many distinct worlds, real and imaginary, exist in that simple-seeming space, the Anglosphere."

The authors represent five nationalities and four continents, with an equal split of men and women on the list. The majority of the shortlist is inspired by real events. Garner, who will celebrate his 88th birthday on the night of the winner ceremony, is the oldest author ever to be shortlisted. At 116 pages, Keegan's Small Things Like These is the shortest book ever recognized, though Garner's Treacle Walker contains fewer words.


The 14-title longlist has been released for the C$100,000 (about US$79,820) Scotiabank Giller Prize, which "highlights the very best of Canadian fiction." The shortlist will be unveiled September 27 and a winner named November 7. This year's longlisted titles are:

A Minor Chorus by Billy-Ray Belcourt 
In the City of Pigs by André Forget 
Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu 
Stray Dogs by Rawi Hage 
Pure Colour by Sheila Heti 
All the Quiet Places by Brian Thomas Isaac 
Avenue of Champions by Conor Kerr 
The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr 
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga
Lucien & Olivia by André Narbonne 
Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah
What We Both Know by Fawn Parker 
We Measure the Earth With Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama 
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson 

Reading with... Steven Banks

Steven Banks is the Emmy-nominated head writer of SpongeBob Squarepants and wrote for Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius and CatDog. His books include the series Middle School Bites, the YA novel King of the Creeps and SpongeBob Exposed. The fourth book in the Middle School Bites series, Night of the Vam-Wolf-Zom, will be published by Holiday House on September 20, 2022.

On your nightstand now:

Honest! Not fibbing to impress people like the jive-cats who do the NYT Book Review and want to show how smarty pants and trendy they are! Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, I Was Better Last Night by Harvey Fierstein, 101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories 1841-1941 edited by Ellery Queen, Dead Man's Walk by Larry McMurtry, Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary. I even asked my mom to buy me guppies because Henry had them. I later discovered her Ramona books. Ramona is one of the great literary characters of American literature and I am not being facetious.

Your top five authors:

No longer breathing:

John Steinbeck: Just read Chapter 15 of The Grapes of Wrath. The dialogue, characters, subtext, setting.

Kurt Vonnegut: He made literature fun. John Irving (who was his student at Iowa) said about Kurt, "It is not easy to write simple."

Ian Fleming: Why not? Bond is a main character with no backstory at all, yet it works. Some of the finest action sequences written.

J.D. Salinger: When is his son going to publish the other books he wrote?! We're not getting any younger!

P.G. Wodehouse: Anyone else would have had Jeeves (the butler) narrate the books, but PG uses the dolt Bertie instead--harder to write, but funnier! Try writing humor. It. Is. Not. Easy.

Still Breathing:

Simon Rich: Funny, funny, funny. And short. His stories, not his stature.

Amor Towles: Accessible, beautifully written and nice thick stories.

Roddy Doyle: Why has that little, tiny island produced so many great writers? His Henry Smart trilogy is so good. And he knows music!

Jon Klassen: I Want My Hat Back. Chilling. Funny. Picture books may be the hardest thing to write.

Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See is one of the best books I've read in the past 20 years. Riveting story. Amazing structure.

Book you've faked reading:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I was a voracious reader, but this stopped me dead in my tracks. I bought the CliffsNotes and am still ashamed. Why do they assign books like this in high school to kill a kid's desire to read? Stop!

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood. Three kids literally raised by wolves are then taught by a 14-year-old governess in Victorian England. A rousing, witty adventure. Sentences on a par with P.G. Wodehouse. Equally great for kids AND adults. Don't be a book snob, read YA and middle grade books!

Book you've bought for the cover:

I can't think of one. Sorry. However, book covers are important and fascinating. Do a Google search "book covers" for Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, Lolita and Gone with the Wind. Crazy.

Book you hid from your parents:

007: James Bond: A Report by O.F. Snelling

Book that changed your life:

Cannery Row by Steinbeck. I've read it numerous times. A beautiful, perfect book. I think it's about friendship. And short! I've visited Doc Ricketts's lab at Cannery Row, felt like I walked into a novel.

Favorite line from a book:


"I can't go on. I'll go on." --Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." --F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Five books you'll never part with:

Cannery Row by Steinbeck (signed first edition, you may come see it when you're in Glendale, Calif.)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (true first edition with the photo J.D. hated and had removed)

Finishing the Hat/Look, I Made a Hat by Stephen Sondheim (personally inscribed)

The World According to Garp by John Irving (signed, first edition)

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

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Each Christmas morning, for the past six years, I get up early and read it. It's perfect. It's art.

Hey, Steven Banks, what about playwrights? You could learn a lot from people who master dialogue, plot, structure, etc.

Playwrights who are still walking around:

Annie Baker: I've read and/or seen ALL her plays. She won a Pulitzer. I especially love Circle, Mirror Transformation and The Flick.

Martin McDonagh: Hangmen, the Lieutenant of Inishmore. Bloody great. Another damn Irishman.

Noah Haidle: Princess Marjorie was so good I called a friend at intermission and said, "I don't care what happens in the second act, you have to see this play."

Tracy Letts: August: Osage County is great, but so is Linda Vista.

David Mamet: Yeah, he's a big nut and he's written some clunkers, but the good ones are really good.

Playwrights who are not walking around anymore:

Arthur Miller wrote my favorite play, Death of a Salesman.

August Wilson: His 10-play cycle. Massive. The dialogue! He sat in cafés and listened to people talk.

Tennessee Williams: I played Jim in The Glass Menagerie in high school. Did you see it? I was magnificent!

Thornton Wilder: Our Town is not a creaky old cutesy play. Read the third act! Also, The Long Christmas Dinner is maybe the best one act ever in my book.

Edward Albee: Three Pulitzers. Show-off. I like the way he controlled--and now his estate controls--how you can perform his plays.

Book Review

Children's Review: Where We Come From

Where We Come from by Diane Wilson, Sun Yung Shin, Shannon Gibney, John Coy, illus. by Dion MBD (Carolrhoda Books, $18.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 5-10, 9781541596122, October 4, 2022)

In this dreamy mosaic of stories, four authors share their family histories, spirituality and cultures from ancient times to the present, lyrically capturing the moving and endless variety of American experiences.

The far-reaching and poetic Where We Come From explores the multitudes of identity that make up every individual. Diane Wilson (The Seedkeeper), Sun Yung Shin (The Wet Hex), Shannon Gibney (See No Color) and John Coy (Hoop Genius) begin their individual stories as one: "We come from single cells evolving over billions of years as did all life on Earth--bacteria, trees, animals!" Over subsequent engagingly illustrated pages, the authors move through time, still as a united "we": "We come from place, language, and spirit. And each of us comes from story." The voices then divide into four and work toward present days, taking turns (in first-person singular now) chronicling their origins as Dakota, Black and Irish American, Korean American and Irish and Scottish American. The pieces of their lives are sometimes revealed coyly, hinting at a deep, rich ancestry: "I come from the breath of plants, the sweet sap of trees, roasted corn, first medicine water, parched wild rice, bison meat sizzling fat on hot coals--gifts from the land." Other times the authors are direct and forthcoming: "I come from Black folks in Mississippi who loved the land but had to leave it behind to stand up, to find enough space for we who were coming."

The digital art of Indonesian illustrator Dion MBD (Every Day: The Graphic Novel) provides a warm and layered foundation for the developing stories. He uses light and shadow to lovely effect, and weaves almost mystical elements into the imagery. In one series of spreads, four children--the four voices--are loosely outlined. Within and surrounding their frames are images from their family cultures: books, cityscapes, dancers, snowball fights. Rather than creating one tightening thread that brings the narratives together into a single American story, the overall feel of Where We Come From is that of a glorious hodgepodge. Back matter elaborates on the specific nonfiction details of the stories and illustrations, providing context and a fuller background to the poetic, mystical-sounding text.

This beautifully illustrated paean to the endless variety of American experiences is a terrific response to the sometimes insensitive query: "No, but where do you really come from?" --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: This collaboration of American voices offers an unusual and honest look at the complexity of identity.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. The Oxcart Technique by Terry Fossum
2. Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
4. Unsheltered Love by Traci Medford-Rosow
5. Moody by Penelope Ward
6. Strange and Unusual (Battle Crows MC Book 6) by Lani Lynn Vale
7. Investing in Gemstones by Thomas Schröck
8. My Fake Fiancé (The Greene Family Book 8) by Piper Rayne
9. Paladin's Kiss by Elizabeth Hunter
10. Born of Blood (The League: Eve of Destruction Book 3) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

[Many thanks to!]

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