Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 17, 2022

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

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

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

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

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Bookstore Sales Rise 5.4% in August; Year to Date Up 9.3%

In August, bookstore sales rose 5.4%, to $1.14 billion, compared to August 2021, reversing an early summer slump, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, bookstore sales in August were 3.4% higher than in August 2019. For the first eight months of the year, bookstore sales have risen 9.3%, to $5.7 billion, compared to the first eight months of 2021.

Total retail sales in August rose 10.8%, to $701.6 million, compared to August 2021. For the year to date, total retail sales have climbed 10.3%, to $5.3 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."

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

Heartland Fall Forum: High Energy in St. Louis

The energy and enthusiasm at the Heartland Fall Forum was evident throughout the show. MIBA board member Emily Schroen (Main Street Books, St. Charles, Mo.) said, "Heartland has always been a high-energy show and we are all so excited to be back."

Booksellers started off day 2 with the Marquee Keynote Author Breakfast, featuring Sidney Keys (Books N Bros: 44 Inspiring Books for Black Boys; Union Square/Sterling, January 2023) in conversation with Ty Allan Jackson (Make Your Own Money: How Kids Can Earn It, Save It, Spend It, and Dream Big; Storey Publishing).

Keys talked about how he visited EyeSeeMe African American Children's Bookstore in St. Louis, Mo., when he was 10 years old: "A whole new world opened up to me. I saw posters of black characters on the wall that looked like me."

On his visit he found and read Jackson's book Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire: Lemonade Escapade. His hunger for more inspiring reading experiences led Keys to launch Books N Bros, a book club for black boys like him. "My passion is really getting more representation in the literary space," said Keys.

Jeffrey Blair (EyeSeeMe Bookstore, St. Louis) joined Sidney Keys and Ty Allan Jackson on the stage at the Marquee Keynote Author Breakfast.

"If this is not the physical manifestation of what books can do, I don't know what is." Jackson said, leading a resounding round of applause for Keys. "The evolution of walking into a bookstore one day, and then fast-forward to the accolades, the acknowledgment and the TV shows, and now going full circle--your book is now the book that’s going to be on bookshelves that a young person is going to sit down and read at EyeSeeMe."

Books N Bros features 44 books that Keys's book club read, and discusses how each affected the club members and what they considered the main takeaways. Keys wants the book to be a resource for educators and readers to find books focused on representations of black boys that black boys will like to read. His goal for Books N Bros is to retain the youth-led mission, currently focused on kids ages 7-13. He's working to develop a similar program for teen readers, and to establish locally led chapters of Books N Bros across the United States.

Devon Overley, Loganberry Books (Cleveland, Ohio), and sales director Kalen Landow at the Microcosm Publishing booth.

The afternoon education sessions were packed with booksellers tackling topics like Sidelines and Merchandising, Alternative Model Bookstores and Non-Profit Subsidiaries, Accessibility and School partnerships.

In the session "Belonging: Bringing Anti-Racism to Your Bookstore" panelists Grace Hagen of Novel Neighbor, Jeffrey Blair of EyeSeeMe, Lecia Michelle (author of White Allies Handbook), Ymani Wince of The Noir Bookshop and moderator Shane Mullen of Left Bank Books discussed how to commit to distinct and important shifts in the workplace regarding anti-racism practices, starting with honest conversations. "If you are under the impression that nothing is going on because you're not hearing anything," Michelle pointed out, it's usually because "people aren’t going to tell you because they’re not comfortable." The panelists talked about setting zero-tolerance policies for micro-aggression and having tools on hand to educate perpetuators of harm about the injury they caused, but ensuring this obligation to educate is not placed on the person who experienced harm.

Merchandise Ball: (top row) winners Princess, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.; Valeria Cerda, La Revo Books, Milwaukee, Wis.; Karisa Labertew, Pageturners Bookstore, Indianola, Iowa; Addy Bowman, Wild Geese Bookshop, Franklin, Ind.; Barbara Cerda, La Revo Books. Bottom row: celebrity judges Sarah High,; Ann Seaton, CALIBA co-executive director; Heather Conn Duncan, MPIBA executive director; Kristin Rasmussen, CALIBA co-executive director; Kimberly Snead,

The Merchandise Ball was a new event for booksellers to show off and exchange favorite store merchandise. A panel of judges voted on the best dressed of the evening. Runners-up won a special prize pack of Heartland merchandise and the grand prize winners received an all-expense-paid trip to next year's Heartland Fall Forum in Detroit, Mich.

Day two ended with the beloved annual Heartland Quiz Bowl, which drew a late-night crowd at the Gateway Terrace. Eleven teams (Bird Brains, The Lost Toys, The Un-Put-Downables, Know It Some, Quizzy McQuiz Face, The Last Book Standing, Insert Name [Here], The Church Ladies, Past Our Bedtime, Here to Learn and Blue Chees-its) competed in eight rounds of heated literary trivia. The winners were Past Our Bedtime; they'll get championship pins and will provide the quiz questions for next year.

Kathy Burnette of Brain Lair Books, (South Bend, Ind.) with author Ross Gay.

The final day of the show began with the Author Breakfast, featuring Roshani Chokshi (The Last Tale of the Flower Bride; Morrow, Feb. 2023), Timothy Egan (A Fever in the Heartland; Viking, April 2023), Ross Gay (Inciting Joy; Algonquin) and Veronica Roth (Arch-Conspirator; Tor, Feb. 2023). (Brandon Taylor [The Late Americans; Riverhead, May 2023] was unable to attend in person, but his publisher read a brief passage on his behalf.)

"There are few places in our commercial realm that feel wholesome as hell," Ross Gay said as he expressed his gratitude for independent booksellers. "So often we are construed primarily as a market, but there is a way that, although independent booksellers of course are selling books, there is a way we are actually people in these bookstores." His new collection of essays intends to change the assumption that joy is not a serious enough emotional state to write about. He explained his definition of joy as a consideration of how we're affected by profound experiences, the emotions that emerge from facing difficulty and that help create solidarity. Joy is, he said, "the light that emanates from us as we help each other carry our sorrows." --Kristianne Huntsberger

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

International Update: #BookTok's Impact on Canadian Backlist Sales; Hodder & Stoughton M.D. Mays Stepping Down 

Noting that #BookTok "is transforming the way that many Canadians discover books," BookNet posed the question "that's really on our mind: Is #BookTok responsible for a backlist renaissance?"

Citing results thus far this year while collecting data for the 2022 edition of the Canadian Book Consumer survey, BookNet has found that 21% of all Canadian book buyers are on TikTok, up from 17% in 2021. The number of books purchased by Canadians because of a recommendation or review has also increased, at 17% so far in 2022 and steadily up 44% over the last five years. 

Using SalesData to track the print sales of 20 selected backlist titles that have trended on #BookTok since it took off in 2020, BookNet reported that Canadian book buyers "are purchasing backlist titles that trend on #BookTok. Over the period from July 2019 to June 2022, sales for these trending #BookTok titles increased exponentially, up 1,047% overall. From the lowest number of sales in September 2019 to the highest number of sales in December 2021, that's an increase of 2,166%."

Each of the 20 backlist titles on the list hit unprecedented peaks in sales month-to-month, up anywhere from 146% to 235,600%, with a median increase of 2,255%. The top three #BookTok-trending backlist titles with the greatest increases are Cain's Jawbone by Edward Powys Mathers (1939), up 235,600% from October 2019 to June 2022; It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover (2016) up 42,133% from November 2019 to June 2022; and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (2012), up 6,769% from September 2019 to May 2021.

For the entire Canadian book market in 2021, backlist titles that were 2-5 years old sold best, followed by titles that were one year old, BookNet wrote, adding that for its 20 backlist titles in the new study, 15% were one year old at the start of #BookTok (pub year 2019); 50% were 2-5 years old at the start of #BookTok (pub years 2015-2018); 25% were 6-10 years old at the start of #BookTok (pub years 2011-2014); and 10% were more than 11 years old at the start of #BookTok.


Carolyn Mays is stepping down as managing director of British publisher Hodder & Stoughton (now a Hachette imprint), effective at the end of 2022, after 10 years in the position and more than 30 years with the company, the Bookseller reported. Succeeding her is Oliver Malcolm, currently executive publisher at HarperCollins. He will report to Katie Espiner, CEO of Hodder & Stoughton and Orion. Malcolm is going to be based at Hachette UK's London office and will join the Hachette UK board. 

Mays described her time as managing director as "challenging, exciting, enormous fun and hugely fulfilling," adding that she felt this was "the right time for me to explore new opportunities elsewhere in the book world and for Hodder to take a new direction under Katie Espiner's leadership." 

Calling Mays "a brilliant, instinctive publisher as well as an excellent and intuitive manager of people," Espiner added she "is beloved by everyone at Hodder & Stoughton and I know she will be enormously missed by everyone here and across Hachette, as well as by so many authors, many of whom she has worked with since their very first books." 

Espiner added: "Oli is an outstanding publisher who always puts the reader first. I am so delighted that he is joining the brilliant team at Hodder & Stoughton to help build on our existing successes and to lead the next stage of our publishing." 

The departure of Mays "is the second high-profile change at Hodder in a matter of weeks, following the announcement Sceptre publishing director Carole Welch is leaving the company," the Bookseller noted.


English bookseller Bookbugs & Dragon Tales in Norwich, which recently launched a £15,000 (about $17,130) Crowdfunder campaign to give the business "breathing space" and do more outreach work with children, received an early shock when actor Russell Crowe donated  £5,000 (about $5,710), BBC News reported. Crowe's generosity sparked a wave of international publicity online and in the media, and the bookshop shattered its original goal and has thus far raised more than £22,000 (about $25,125). 

Co-owner Leanne Fridd said that within hours of the start of the online appeal, which she called a "one-off attempt to secure our future," a donation appeared in Crowe's name. BBC News noted that he had heard of the appeal on social media via a friend of a friend. 

"We were already in shock that people believed in us and Russell Crowe just tipped it over the edge," she said. "His gift to us was worth so much more than money; he has put his name with our business and enabled us to have higher visibility. And with every single donation we get there's more we can do." With his donation, Crowe qualified for a personalized gold loyalty card giving him a lifetime discount at the bookshop. --Robert Gray

Michael J. McGandy New Director of University of South Carolina Press

Michael McGandy

Michael J. McGandy has been named director of the University of South Carolina Press, effective today, succeeding former director Richard Brown.

McGandy most recently was at Cornell University Press for 14 years, as acquisitions editor, senior editor and editorial director of Three Hills, the CUP's regional trade imprint. Earlier he was associate editor for Macmillan Library Reference/Thompson Media, associate managing editor and associate editor in Norton's professional books division, and acquisitions editor at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

McGandy said, "UofSC Press is a place where I will bring my expertise in developing publishing programs, my extensive networks and strong reputation in scholarly communities, my commitment to diversity and inclusion, and my passion for building partnerships so as to help UofSC Press flourish in the 2020s and beyond."

He added that he has "a strong editorial vision for UofSC Press, one that builds on the press's recent growth, reflects my industry experience, and is predicated on publishing books that matter." He aims to emphasize books with popular appeal plus the authority of serious, scholarly literature. "For those books that take risks and say things that might provoke some people in the public sphere, having that authority behind them is really important."

Memorial Service for Merloyd Lawrence

Merloyd Lawrence

A memorial for Merloyd Lawrence, who co-founded the Seymour Lawrence imprint and her own imprint, Merloyd Lawrence Books, and who died June 27, will take place this coming Saturday, October 22, at 2 p.m. at King's Chapel in Boston, Mass. The service will be livestreamed here.


Image of the Day: Sweet Ride at Books Are Magic

In Pauline David-Sax's debut picture book, Everything in Its Place (illus. by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow; Doubleday BYR), a shy girl gains confidence after meeting female members of a motorcycle group. David-Sax visited Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y., along with a member the Sirens NYC motorcycle club, who showed her bike during story time.

Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster

Melissa Croce has been promoted to senior marketing manager, adult library at Simon & Schuster.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Chelsea Manning on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Ralph Macchio, author of Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me (Dutton, $28, 9780593185834). He will also appear tomorrow on the View.

CBS Mornings: April Ryan, author of Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem (Amistad, $27.99, 9780063210196).

Fresh Air: Chelsea Manning, author of README.txt: A Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28, 9780374279271). She is also on the View.

Rachael Ray: Bobby Flay, author of Sundays with Sophie: Flay Family Recipes for Any Day of the Week (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9780593232408).

Tamron Hall repeat: Justin Sutherland, author of Northern Soul: Southern-Inspired Home Cooking from a Northern Kitchen (Harvard Common Press, $30, 9780760375327).

Good Morning America: Ali Smith, Atman Smith and Andres Gonzalez, authors of Let Your Light Shine: How Mindfulness Can Empower Children and Rebuild Communities (TarcherPerigee, $27, 9780593332283).

Today Show: Phil Rosenthal, co-author of Somebody Feed Phil the Book: Untold Stories, Behind-the-Scenes Photos and Favorite Recipes (S&S/Simon Element, $32.50, 9781982170998).

The View: John Grisham, author of The Boys from Biloxi (Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385548922). He will also appear on CBS Mornings.

Rachael Ray: Geena Davis, author of Dying of Politeness: A Memoir (HarperOne, $28.99, 9780063119130).

Stage to Film: Matilda the Musical

The first official trailer has been released for Netflix's Matilda the Musical, a screen adaptation of the Tony- and Olivier-winning stage production that is due for a limited release in theatres beginning December 9, with a full streaming release set for December 25, Playbill reported. Newcomer Alisha Weir stars in the title role opposite Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull. 

Based on the 1988 children's novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda the Musical was adapted for film by the production's book writer Dennis Kelly, with original music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. Tony winner Matthew Warchus, who directed both the West End and Broadway productions, returned to direct the Netflix film. Working Title's Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and The Roald Dahl Story Company's Jon Finn and Luke Kelly serve as its producers.

Appearing alongside Weir and Thompson are Lashana Lynch as Miss Honey, Sindhu Vee as Mrs. Phelps, and Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood.

Books & Authors

Awards: B&N's Discover Winner, Best Books of 2022

Barnes & Noble has chosen The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty (Knopf) as its $10,000 2022 Discover Prize Winner, honoring the "best new author published this year." The title was voted on by B&N booksellers from the company's monthly Discover picks.

The company called The Rabbit Hutch "a captivating novel about coming-of-age, climate change and gentrification in a dying Rust Belt community, with an unforgettable 18-year-old at its heart."

B&N CEO James Daunt commented: "The Rabbit Hutch announces an extraordinary talent, one of those books that makes you sit up and marvel. Tess Gunty's writing is mesmerizing, spinning her brilliant insights into a novel that is utterly compelling. Our booksellers love this book."

The five runners-up were:

All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy


B&N has also presented its Best Books of 2022 list, selected by company booksellers. The titles are:

Babel by R.F. Kuang
I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Prisoners of the Castle by Ben Macintyre
Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman
Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
World of Curiosities by Louise Penny

Book Review

Review: Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Fight for Worker Justice

Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Fight for Worker Justice by Jamie K. McCallum (Basic Books, $30 hardcover, 320p., 9781541619913, November 15, 2022)

During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, essential workers in health care, food service and other industries were often applauded, sometimes literally. But the pandemic exposed the fault lines in a system designed to take advantage of low-wage workers. In his third book, Essential, sociologist and activist Jamie K. McCallum (Worked Over) delves into the struggles faced by such essential workers as a result of Covid-19, and places their strikes, protests and other actions in context of the long history of U.S. labor organizing.

McCallum begins with familiar facts: essential workers kept the country, and the world, going after millions of people were urged to stay home. Many of them--disproportionately women and people of color--were already struggling, economically and financially. He lambastes the big corporations that prioritized profits over their workers' safety, explaining that "the pandemic exacerbated America's preexisting crisis of care and underlined workers' role in solving it." The rest of the book focuses largely on workers' efforts to improve their situations: striking, using unions as a tool for collective bargaining, using creative tactics to get their bosses to pay attention. But, McCallum shows, their actions weren't only self-motivated: essential workers are keenly aware of how their work affects others. "We weren't just out there for us," nurse Ros Reggans told McCallum, speaking about a strike at the nursing home where she worked. "We were out there for them"--the residents at the home.

McCallum takes readers through the last hundred or so years of labor relations in the U.S., from well-known incidents like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to more recent events like some Amazon workers forming unions. Through research and interviews, he illuminates the experiences of grocery-store workers, health-care aides, food distributors and teachers, while calling to account the politicians who consistently siphon money away from vital industries and their workers. He makes multiple urgent calls for higher wages, government support and better benefits and working conditions for the people who truly keep the country going. He laments the outsized role of individualism in American life, and Americans' dependence on an economic model that exploits nearly everyone but the very rich.

Insightful, thought-provoking and peppered with helpful statistics and charts, Essential is both a clarion call to improve the lives of the working class and a primer on how their prosperity--or lack of it--is tied to the fate of all Americans. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: A veteran sociologist illuminates essential workers' struggles during the pandemic and calls for better policies to support them. 

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