Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 19, 2022

Union Square Kids: The Door That Had Never Been Opened Before by Mrs. and Mr. MacLeod

Shadow Mountain: The Queen and the Knave (Proper Romance Victorian) by Sarah M. Eden

Andrews McMeel Publishing: The Wheel of the Year: An Illustrated Guide to Nature's Rhythms by Fiona Cook, illustrated by Jessica Roux

Tor Nightfire: What Feasts at Night (Sworn Soldier #2) by T. Kingfisher

Amulet Books: Nightbane (the Lightlark Saga Book 2) by Alex Aster


Banned Books: An Overview from NCAC's Chris Finan

Banned Books Week began yesterday, with more urgency than in many past years because of the wave of efforts to ban books in libraries and schools, mainly by right-wing groups and politicians.

A range of organizations, including the American Library Association, PEN America and the American Booksellers Association, are conducting Banned Books Week campaigns, and thousands of bookstores and libraries across the country are highlighting banned books new and old, as well as the many unusual new ways to ban books.

Oren Teicher and Chris Finan at Norwich Bookstore last week.

In a well-timed appearance at the Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, Vt., last Thursday, Christopher M. Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship and author of How Free Speech Saved Democracy: The Untold History of How the First Amendment Became an Essential Tool for Securing Liberty and Social Justice (Steerforth Press), in conversation with former American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher, provided an overview of current book banning trends. Finan noted that he's been fighting censorship for 40 years, "and this is the worst it's been in 40 years, and we've seen some bad times."

This is "the longest and maybe the biggest" such effort to censor books, and it is more difficult to battle than previous efforts such as the Patriot Act and banning Judy Blume titles, primarily because it's occurring in so many places and because of social media. Finan noted that "ironically," while social media has made it easier for people to speak, "it's made it easier for people who are enemies of books to speak and organize."

That's a major reason book challenges have increased from a recent average of 300 to 400 a year to almost 800 last year. In addition, the number of books being challenged has "radically expanded," from 500 books in 2019 to 1,600 books in 2021. The kinds of titles targeted in this latest censorship wave are books about race and racism and GLBTQ titles, although old targets--books that are open about sex and include "bad words"--are still resonant with those on the right. Those who fight censorship and teachers and librarians feel "overwhelmed" and "we're on our heels," he continued.

Still, he is confident that "we will win this battle," which will take time in the same way that previous anti-censorship battles took some time to organize and have an effect. Already there are signs of people pushing back against censorship, from parents getting up at school board meetings "and taking their life in their hands" by speaking up to kids organizing banned book clubs off campus and numerous local and regional groups forming. For example, he cited several new activist groups in Florida, "the belly of the beast" for censorship efforts: Cuban American Women for Democracy, which is speaking out on Spanish-language media; Families Against Book Bans, now being organized; and the Florida Freedom to Read Coalition. Unlike previous anti-censorship efforts, such as battling the Patriot Act, which was a federal law and needed a national response, the current initiatives are mainly taking place in state and local venues.

He also noted there are groups on the left who oppose some books, protesting speakers at various book-related events as well as against publishing certain books. "I understand the world is full of hate and misinformation, and I get it," he said. "But the world would be a lot worse without free speech." And he emphasized that the current wave of book banning efforts on the right "is by many orders of magnitude larger" because it's led by Republican politicians who are running on fear about books "and they're getting elected." This is a change from previous censorship campaigns, which were supported by many Republicans but were not a central campaign issue.

Finan said he remains optimistic and concluded by saying, "I see progress, and we do win battles, and the war is still being fought. People are standing up; people are recognizing the danger.... We have to fight for free expression, and if we don't, we'll lose it. I am confident people will fight for it." --John Mutter

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Howling Basset Books Opens in Oldwick, N.J.

Howling Basset Books opened this past weekend in Oldwick, N.J. The store is owned by Lisa Lynch and Zohar Kfir, two academics with a long-time interest in starting a bookstore. On staff is their basset hound, Stella, whose specialty is announcing the arrival of customers and the UPS truck.

At just under 700 square feet, the store carries a mix of literary and genre fiction, children's and YA, and nonfiction titles, including sections on cooking, nature and science, and feminist and progressive politics.

Stella at work

Lynch and Kfir's plans include partnering with local conservation nonprofit Whittemore for readings and events, and hosting both live and virtual story hours.

Oldwick is a semi-rural community, surrounded by farms and rolling hills but within an hour of New York City. The last bookstore in the town that focused on new titles closed in the early 1990s.

Shelf Awareness Job Board: Click Here to Post Your Job

AAP Sales for 2021: Up 12.3%, to $29.33 Billion, a Record

Revenues for the U.S. book industry rose 12.3%, to $29.33 billion, in 2021, the Association of American Publishers reported in its StatShot Annual report. The figure is a record for any AAP StatShot.

AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante said, "The industry was firing on all cylinders in 2021, delivering benefits up and down the value chain for literature, scholarship, and educational materials. At the end of the day, we know that books are immeasurable and timeless as they make their way in the world. Nevertheless, in an economy that is overcrowded with entertainment options, it is thrilling and gratifying to see such resounding affirmation for reading."

Among highlights from the report:

In 2021, estimated trade revenue grew 11.6%, to $18.8 billion, the book industry's single largest category. While online sales amounted to 50.1% of 2020 trade sales because of Covid lockdowns, in 2021, bricks-and-mortar bookstores regained some ground, with sales rising 23.9%, to $6.22 billion, compared to 2020. And in 2021, in the physical retail channel, trade revenues increased 40.4%, reaching $3.66 billion, reversing a five-year trend of decline. The total percentage of trade revenue attributable to the physical retail channel for 2021 was 19.5%.

In 2021, online purchases of both digital and printed products were $9.6 billion and accounted for 32.7% of publisher revenues. For the trade, online sales were $8.39 billion, or 44.7% of revenue. Compared to 2020, online sales was flat, falling 0.5%.

In the trade segment, printed books "continued to dominate the market" during 2021, with hardcover (up 13.6%, to $7.07 billion), trade paperbacks (up 14.2% to $6.24 billion), and special bindings (up 11.6%, to $42 million) all having double-digit sales gains.

E-book sales fell 5%, to $1.97 billion after a sterling 2020, when sales rose for the first time in years.

Downloaded audio continued to grow, climbing 12.8%, to $1.75 billion, maintaining its steady growth every month (except for November 2020) since 2012.

Changing of the Guard at Indigo

Heather Reisman
Peter Ruis

In a series of executive changes at Indigo Books & Music, founder and CEO Heather Reisman has been named executive chair, in which position she will "continue to drive Indigo's vision and growth strategy while also remaining deeply involved in the business," the company said.

Peter Ruis, who has been Indigo's president, has become CEO and been appointed a member of the board of directors. Reisman commented: "Having worked with Peter closely over the last 20 months, I have full confidence that Peter is the right leader for Indigo and that he will be instrumental to both our future success and to sustaining the core values and culture that have underpinned this organization since its founding."

Ruis said, "I would like to pay tribute to Heather's 25 years of creating and running this incredible brand and look forward to our new partnership as we shape the future. I would also like to thank Indigo's board of directors for their thoughtful and diligent work in this transition and am appreciative of the confidence both Heather and the board have placed in me."

At the same time, Andrea Limbardi, who has been Indigo's chief customer and digital officer, has been appointed president. Reisman commented: "In the over 20 years that Andrea has been at Indigo, she has continually taken on more and more responsibility always making an exceptional contribution. I know, as does Peter, that Andrea's leadership is key to achieving our ambitions."

Obituary Note: Peter Davison

Peter Davison, "an indefatigable literary sleuth who, beginning in his mid-50s, devoted 35 years to revealing the unvarnished George Orwell, including curating, editing and annotating 20 volumes of the author's complete works," died August 16, the New York Times reported. He was 95. 

Davison's death was announced last month by the Orwell Society, which noted that his "work in the field of George Orwell studies is unparalleled." Dione Venables, founder of the organization, added: "Peter provided untiring guidance and encouragement to me in the years spent before we made the Orwell Society a reality in 2011."

Orwell's son, Richard Blair, said: "Peter was an honorary founder member of the Orwell Society and we will miss him deeply as will the millions of Orwell readers and academics, whose debt to Peter is incalculable."

Davison "had been a high school dropout whose early higher education consisted of correspondence courses, and when he took his first teaching job, at the University of Sydney in Australia, he acknowledged, 'I had never given a lecture before, and, indeed, never even heard a university lecture,' " the New York Times reported, adding that his "entree into the world of Orwell was similarly implausible. He demonstrated his ability to accurately transcribe a barely-legible original manuscript of Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 by disporting his skills in paleography, the study of ancient and antiquated writing systems."

"He was a super scholarly sleuth," said Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation. "The scale of the intellectual mastery is breathtaking. Peter's extraordinary contribution was to make the modern Orwell possible."

When the 20 volumes were finally in print, Michael Shelden, author of Orwell: The Authorized Biography (1991), wrote that Davison's work was "a great labor of love in a selfish age dominated by the greed and corruption that Orwell so eloquently warned against.... And the edition itself is a national treasure which somehow survived the burdens of indifference and neglect."

He later edited, among other books, The Lost Orwell (2006), Orwell's Diaries (2009), George Orwell: A Life in Letters (2013) and Seeing Things As They Are (2014). In 1999, Davison was appointed to the Order of the British Empire for services to English literature.


Image of the Day: Bookseller, Library Team Up for Children of the Catastrophe Event

Pamela Grath, owner of Dog Ears Books, Northport, Mich., recently teamed up with Leelanau Township Library to host an event featuring Sarah Shoemaker, author of Children of the Catastrophe (Harper). 
"The weather could not have been sweeter," Grath noted. "Big, enthusiastic turnout was gratifying, to say the least. (Northport loves books!) Sales were gratifying, too, and Sarah was kept busy signing until the assembled multitude demanded that she speak, and then an appreciative audience listened to her reading from the novel and asked good questions afterward." Pictured: (l.-r) Northport librarian Julie Alpers-Preneta, author Shoemaker and bookseller Grath.

Ingram Distributing the Do Book Co.

Ingram is now the exclusive distributor of the Do Book Co. in the U.S. and Canada. The titles were previously distributed by Chronicle Books.

The Do Book Co., London, England, publishes guides for creative entrepreneurs, makers and doers to work smarter and create positive change. Its more than 30 titles cover design, business, wellbeing and sustainable living, and they emphasize taking action rather than background theory.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Nicholas Sparks on Good Morning America

Watch What Happens Live: Jenifer Lewis, author of Walking in My Joy: In These Streets (Amistad, $28.99, 9780063079656). She will also appear tomorrow on the View.

Good Morning America: Nicholas Sparks, author of Dreamland: A Novel (Random House, $28.99, 9780593449554).

CBS Mornings: Dr. Ken Duckworth, author of You Are Not Alone: The NAMI Guide to Navigating Mental Health--With Advice from Experts and Wisdom from Real People and Families (Zando, $28.95, 9781638930006).

Also on CBS Mornings: Kendra Scott, author of Born to Shine: Do Good, Find Your Joy, and Build a Life You Love (Worthy Books, $28, 9781546002321).

Movies: Face

Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds), Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix franchise), Isabelle Fuhrman (The Novice) and Liana Liberato (To the Bone) will star in Justine Bateman's upcoming film Face, based on her 2021 book, Face: One Square Foot of Skin

Written by Bateman, the movie "consists of 14 vignettes, both comedic and dramatic, which look at women's faces getting older, and why that makes people angry," Deadline noted. "While much of society appears to assume that women's faces are somehow broken and need to be fixed, Face reveals some of the many ways in which women, and those around them, allow this idea to take root at all."

The project will begin production in Los Angeles in late fall, with Bateman producing under her Section 5 banner, along with Veronica Radaelli (Violet, 9 Bullets). Cassian Elwes (Mudbound, Dallas Buyers Club) is exec producing. Bateman is also the author of Fame

Books & Authors

Awards: Ngaio Marsh Winner

In a first, Jacqueline Bublitz's Before You Knew My Name won both the First Novel and Best Novel 2022 Ngaio Marsh Awards, which "promotes and celebrates excellence in crime, mystery and thriller writing by New Zealand authors."

Organizers said: "While Before You Knew My Name shares an inciting incident familiar to any viewer of U.S. cop shows--a jogger in New York City finds the body of a young woman--in her debut Bublitz flips the script by taking readers deep into the lives of Alice and Ruby, the victim and the jogger, rather than the detectives."

Judges called the book "beautifully heart-breaking, stylishly written, and boldly pushing the envelope of crime fiction. Bublitz delivers a beguiling tale with great characterisation: Alice and Ruby are wonderful. This is a tragic but warm-hearted crime novel that gives victims agency and voice."

Awards founder Craig Sisterson called the dual win "a remarkable achievement by Jacqueline, especially given the strength of the Best Novel category this year, which included past Ngaios winners in Paul Cleave and RWR McDonald, a four-time finalist in Ben Sanders, a two-time Ockhams longlistee in Kirsten McDougall, and a many-times New York Times bestseller in Nalini Singh. Our judges really loved many different books, it was a tough decision."

Book Review

Review: Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem

Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem by April Ryan (Amistad, $27.99 hardcover, 208p., 9780063210196, October 18, 2022)

Black women are the often unsung "sheroes" who make immeasurable contributions to America's democracy, institutions, families and communities, all while facing the double bind of sexism and racism. In her compelling, thoughtful fourth book, Black Women Will Save the World, veteran White House reporter April Ryan--herself a trailblazing Black woman--champions the accomplishments of Black female leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer, Maxine Waters, Vice President Kamala Harris and the cofounders of Black Lives Matter. In powerful, insightful prose, Ryan shows readers why the accomplishments of Black women matter now more than ever, and urges readers of all races and genders to "join me in celebrating Black women, seeing Black women, supporting Black women, and standing with Black women by creating space for their full humanity."

Ryan (Under Fire; At Mama's Knee) shares some of her own story: as a working-class native of Baltimore, a proud graduate of a historically Black college and a single mother, she is an anomaly in the White House press corps for various reasons. But she is proud of her roots and is teaching her daughters to stand strong in their own identities. She also shares vital historical information about Black women activists and organizers: familiar names like Rosa Parks, yes, but other women, such as Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Nannie Helen Burroughs, whose work has often been ignored. "That ability to fight for the greater good while sacrificing for the immediate win is a hallmark of Black female leadership," she notes, acknowledging that Black women have made complex compromises in service of the causes they fight for. Ryan urges readers to learn about and celebrate the work of Black women in achieving gains in voting rights, women's rights and other areas, and to support the work of activists such as Stacey Abrams who are currently fighting for equality.

Ryan emphasizes, repeatedly, the price Black women pay for being first in a space, for being the smartest or most accomplished in the room, for excelling in a society that is explicitly not built for them. As an award-winning journalist, she knows whereof she speaks--and she's determined to keep holding the door open for others to come through. In the wake of the racism and sexism that have characterized the Trump era, Ryan calls on all Americans to do better: to listen to, respect and celebrate Black women. Her book is an important step forward in that conversation. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Veteran White House reporter April Ryan's fourth book is a powerful tribute to the distinct strengths of Black women.

Deeper Understanding

Panel Discussion: Underground Treasures from NYRB Comics

NYRB Classics have become both "design objects and totems of intellectual status," as the New York Times put it. I have friends who collect the paperbacks and house them all together on a single shelf, their colorful unadorned spines forming a pleasing visual pattern that features prominently in their social media posts and as their Zoom backgrounds. I'm also an NYRB superfan: I've been meaning to write this column for a few months now, but I got distracted reading The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley and Varieties of Exile by Mavis Gallant, both NYRB Classics. While NYRB's originals imprint has recently gotten some attention after The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen won the Pulitzer Prize and Benjamín Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World was featured on Obama's Summer 2021 Reading List, the cult following for this publisher in the bookish corners of the Internet doesn't seem to include NYRB's comics imprint, NYRC. Here are some NYRC titles that deserve some attention:

The Green Hand and Other Stories by Nicole Claveloux, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith, introduction by Daniel Clowes (New York Review Comics, $22.95, 9781681376684)

In the introduction to The Green Hand by Nicole Claveloux, Daniel Clowes writes that until the graphic novel was translated from the French for NYRC, he'd technically never read her work. And yet, the drawings he saw in Heavy Metal magazine decades ago had such a profound grip on him that he feared the newly translated work "could only diminish the mysterious power of her images." Evidently, this wasn't quite true. The translation allowed him, he wrote, to enter the "fearless, inward-focused [world of] artistic self-assurance and intensely felt clarity of vision" that Claveloux and her collaborator Edith Zha had created. Their work is vivid, dreamlike, and funny in a way that is surely felt but maybe not easily explained. Demented facial expressions drawn with painstaking shading and visual non sequiturs fill the pages of this newly translated underground comic, and I've been searching eBay for Claveloux prints since I finished.

How to handsell: An adult Alice in Wonderland, this surrealist graphic novel has bracing colors and features a depressed human-sized crow in a bowler hat.

Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings by Glen Baxter (New York Review Comics, $22.95, 9781590179857)

Even more so than The Green Hand, the non sequitur is the engine behind Glen Baxter's work in Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings. Those who follow Baxter's delightful Instagram are familiar with his style: single panels depicting curious scenes that seem like they have been pulled from a longer story mid-plot. While Baxter's Wikipedia describes his work as belonging to the genre of "literary nonsense," I think a better way of describing him is as a pioneer of flash fiction. His methodically neat crayon drawings paired with one-liners demonstrate an incredible economy of storytelling that most New Yorker cartoonists surely aspire to.

How to handsell: An extremely fun collection of single-panel comics accompanied by elaborate, cinematic histories written by several of Baxter's fake characters, Almost Completely Baxter is perfect for fans of absurdist fiction or anyone with a sense of humor.

All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End by Charles Johnson (New York Review Comics, $34.95, 9781681376738)

Coming in October 2022 is another collection by an artist who has also perfected the single-panel comic. Many know Charles Johnson as the National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage, but much of his early career consisted of cartooning for local Midwestern newspapers. This new collection, All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End, features hundreds of single-panel comics from various now out-of-print books Johnson had published in the 1960s and '70s. Regularly producing cartoons for Southern Illinois University's newspaper, the Daily Egyptian, Johnson was politely asked by one faculty adviser to refrain from "doing the cartoons in which [he] was calling for revolution." Johnson's work, even decades later and full of dated visual references, such as to the Black Panthers, still feels vital and fresh. Johnson's work is trenchant and morally rigorous while never sacrificing its good humor. One of my favorites is a panel that depicts two drinking fountains. Above one there is a sign that simply says "whites only." Above the second cracked fountain beside it is a sign that has "Colored," "Negroes," and "Afro-Americans" all crossed out, with "Blacks only" remaining below it. Language's disconnect from material conditions is a dilemma we may not be any closer to resolving.

How to handsell: For fans of newspaper-style cartooning, and activists who want a visual account of both how much and how little has changed since the 1970s.

The Tenderness of Stones by Marion Fayolle, translated from the French by Geoffrey Brock (New York Review Comics, $32.95, 9781681372983)

Fayolle's The Tenderness of Stones, a cream-colored matte hardcover with an illustrated interior drawn in earth tones, has to be the most gorgeous book in my apartment. Fayolle introduces incredible textures into her illustrations, many looking like they're made from construction paper. The drawings are surreal, and the story is written with a gentle, almost affectless irony that fits Fayolle's subject matter: she and her family are watching her father's body systematically shut down. Her metaphors are stark: her father becomes a child again, he wheels his lungs around in a wagon. The boundaries between the father's body and the bodies of his family start to blur as they become his hands, doing his chores, and his mouth, interpreting what they think his thoughts might be to others. An extraordinarily restrained portrait of a universal human experience, The Tenderness of Stones is a book about grief I'd recommend to anyone.

How to handsell: For those going through the process of mourning, or for anyone who appreciates skillful, restrained visual storytelling.

Powered by: Xtenit