Also published on this date: Monday May 13, 2024: Maximum Shelf: A Song to Drown Rivers

Also published on this date: February 26, 2024 Dedicated Issue: Simon & Schuster Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

Shelf Awareness for [date:convertDateFormat('EEEE, MMMM d, yyyy', $issuedate)]

Feiwel & Friends: Kisses, Codes, and Conspiracies by Abigail Hing Wen

Watkins Publishing: A Feminist's Guide to ADHD: How Women Can Thrive and Find Focus in a World Built for Men by Janina Maschke

Soho Teen: Only for the Holidays by Abiola Bello

W. W. Norton & Company: Still Life by Katherine Packert Burke

Shadow Mountain: A Kingdom to Claim by Sian Ann Bessey

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Immortal Dark (Deluxe Limited Edition) by Tigest Girma

Bramble: Swordcrossed by Freya Marske


Federal Judge Rules Against Penguin Random House Purchase of Simon & Schuster

The federal district court judge hearing the Justice Department suit seeking to block Penguin Random House's purchase of Simon & Schuster has ruled against PRH and S&S, saying that the Justice Department had proven that the combination would harm competition by publishers for probable bestsellers by the most highly-compensated authors. The case has been part of the Biden administration's effort to tighten antitrust enforcement.

PRH responded, "We strongly disagree with today's decision, which is an unfortunate setback for readers and authors, and we will immediately request an expedited appeal. As we demonstrated throughout the trial, the Department of Justice's focus on advances to the world's best-paid authors instead of consumers or the intense competitiveness in the publishing sector runs contrary to its mission to ensure fair competition. We believe this merger will be pro-competitive, and we will continue to work closely with Paramount and Simon & Schuster on next steps."

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division said, "Today's decision protects vital competition for books and is a victory for authors, readers, and the free exchange of ideas. The proposed merger would have reduced competition, decreased author compensation, diminished the breadth, depth, and diversity of our stories and ideas, and ultimately impoverished our democracy. The decision is also a victory for workers more broadly. It reaffirms that the antitrust laws protect competition for the acquisition of goods and services from workers."

Judge Florence Y. Pan issued only a short order and did not release the full order, which remains under seal until the parties make redactions of confidential information. The $2.2 billion purchase offer was announced in November 2020; the Justice Department filed suit in November 2021. In its original complaint, the Justice Department said that if the sale is completed, PRH "would be, by far, the largest book publisher in the United States, towering over its rivals. The merger would give Penguin Random House outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work. The deal... would likely harm competition in the publishing industry and should be blocked." It focused in particular on how the joint company would affect offers for "anticipated top-selling books."

In the August trial, a range of people from the industry, including authors, agents, even the heads of PRH and S&S competitors, and others testified. Among them, Stephen King, published by S&S's Scribner imprint, spoke against the purchase, saying, "I came because I think that consolidation is bad for competition." Despite his personal successes, he said he was an exception: "It becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find money to live on."

Penguin Random House said that it would allow PRH and S&S imprints to bid against each other, seemingly negating the Justice Department's argument. In its pre-trial brief, the company said that the Justice Department "has narrowed its focus down to one very small segment of the market to acquire U.S. book rights: the set of about 1,200 books acquired annually for advances of at least $250,000, or about 2% of all books published by commercial publishers. The government treats this tiny price segment as a 'sub-market' and gives it a label--the market for the rights to 'anticipated top-selling books'--that is entirely unknown to industry participants.

"But even then, the government does not allege the merger will adversely affect all advances within that small price segment. Its focus tightens even further, narrowing down to advances paid when either PRH or S&S acquires the book. And yet according to the mathematical model the government invokes to prove harm, not even advances for all of those books will decline. By its terms, the model applies only to a specific kind of transaction--one very uncommon in the publishing industry. Based on the best available data, the type of transaction modeled by the government accounts for only approximately 85 books acquired annually, out of more than 55,000 total books published annually, and out of approximately 1,200 books acquired annually for advances of $250,000 or more."

PRH also emphasized that the Justice Department "has not alleged that the acquisition would harm competition in the sale of books," thus not affecting consumers, and that the company had not planned "any reduction in the number of books acquired or in amounts paid for those acquisitions."

Speculation will increase now about other possible suitors for S&S, which parent company Paramount Global wants to sell. Among the most logical: HarperCollins and Hachette Book Group.

W. W. Norton & Company: Still Life by Katherine Packert Burke

The Bookloft, Great Barrington, Mass., Sold to Longtime Bookseller

Pamela Pescosolido is selling the Bookloft in Great Barrington, Mass., to longtime employee and head book buyer Giovanni Boivin. Boivin, who started at the bookstore in September 2016, will officially take over in January 2023, the bookstore's 49th year in business.

Pescosolido purchased the bookstore in May 2016 from founding owners Eric and Evelyn Wilska, and the store relocated in 2020. She told Shelf Awareness that she's been thinking of stepping away from the bookstore for about a year and seriously thinking about it for around six months. Her son is now living in Colorado and the rest of her family is on the West Coast, she explained, and she "wanted to be closer to them."

Pam Pescosolido

A few weeks ago she approached Boivin about buying the bookstore, figuring that he might be interested in becoming owner and that selling to someone who already knew the business could be a "more expeditious process." While Boivin "already knows the systems," she's started teaching him the basics of things like bookkeeping and accounting, which she always did herself.

Pescosolido added that her reasons for selling are personal rather than financial, and she's glad Boivin is "willing to give it a shot. I wish him all the best."

Boivin said he expects a fairly smooth transition, noting that Pescosolido has always "trusted her staff" to handle the day-to-day operations of the bookstore. He intends to continue as head buyer for the adult list and has already started thinking about plans for 2023 and beyond.

Giovanni Boivin

The store also carries board games, tabletop games and card games, he said, and in the spring Boivin plans on hosting game nights. While he hasn't approached anyone yet, he is considering working with local artists for gallery opportunities, and he'd love to get the community more involved with event collaboration and hopefully get bigger name authors out to the Berkshires.

There will be 50th anniversary festivities in 2024, he continued, and beyond that, he would "love to be able to make this store last another 50 years."--Alex Mutter

For Sale: White Mountain Cafe & Bookstore, Gorham, N.H.

Jenna and Nat Bowman, owners of White Mountain Cafe & Bookstore in Gorham, N.H., are looking to sell the bookstore they've owned and operated for the last 16 years, the Conway Daily Sun reported.

Located on the first floor of a two-story building, the bookstore sells general-interest titles for all ages, along with White Mountain guidebooks, photo books, children's toys and a variety of gift items. The cafe serves tea, coffee and pastries, along with breakfast sandwiches, bagels, wraps, paninis and soups. The building's second floor has a two-bedroom rental apartment, and the entire property is slightly larger than a half acre.

The Bowmans told the Daily Sun that with their children now in high school and the older of the two beginning to look at colleges, they felt it was time for a change. They don't plan to move away but do expect to travel.

The building is listed by Badger Peabody & Smith Realty at $699,000, and Don Lapointe is handling inquiries.

Obituary Note: John Jay Osborn Jr.

John Jay Osborn Jr.

John Jay Osborn Jr., author of The Paper Chase, the 1971 novel set at Harvard Law School that was made into a movie and a TV series, died on October 19 at the age of 77.

While attending Harvard Law School, Osborn wrote The Paper Chase, his best-known book, which "tells the story of two antagonists: Kingsfield, an austere, curmudgeonly Harvard elder, and Hart, an industrious first-year student from the Midwest who is trying to survive the cutthroat intellectual world of an elite law school," the New York Times wrote.

In the 1973 movie, which was written and directed by James Bridges and starred John Houseman as Kingsfield and Timothy Bottoms as Hart, Kingsfield tells the class: "You teach yourself the law, but I train your mind. You come in here with a skull full of mush. You leave thinking like a lawyer." Houseman won an Oscar for best supporting actor for the role.

In the TV series, which ran between 1978 and 1986, Houseman played Kingsfield again while James Stephens played Hart.

Osborn went on to write several other novels, TV and film scripts and simultaneously had a long career as a lawyer and law professor, often teaching, like Kingsfield, contract law.

His other books included The Only Thing I've Done Wrong (1977), a family drama; The Associates (1979), about life at a Wall Street law firm; The Man Who Owned New York (1981), about a lawyer trying to recover $3 million missing from the estate of his firm's biggest client; and Listen to the Marriage (2018), set in the office of a marriage counselor. He wrote 14 episodes of the TV series The Paper Chase as well as episodes for L.A. Law and Spenser: For Hire.


Cool Idea of the Day: Spooky Craft Night

"Thank you to everyone who came to Spooky Craft night--that was so much fun!" Flagship Books, Kansas City, Kan., posted on Facebook yesterday. "Special thanks to @secret.handshake.studios for providing some great examples and crafting expertise. We will likely be hosting similar craft nights in the future, so stay tuned if you missed this one or want to come back next time. Scroll thru for a few of last night's creepy creations."

Personnel Changes at Holiday House, Peachtree, and Pixel+Ink

Morgan Hillman has joined Holiday House, Peachtree, and Pixel+Ink as sales director. She was formerly senior national accounts manager, specializing in children's book sales, at HarperCollins.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Linda Ronstadt on Today

Today Show: Linda Ronstadt, co-author of Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands (Heyday, $35, 9781597145794).

CBS Mornings: Patrice Gordon, author of Reverse Mentoring: Removing Barriers and Building Belonging in the Workplace (Hachette Go, $26, 9780306829611).

Also on CBS Mornings: Christina Tosi, author of All About Cookies: A Milk Bar Baking Book (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9780593231975).

Rachael Ray: Dale Earnhardt Jr., author of Buster's Trip to Victory Lane (Thomas Nelson, $18.99, 9781400233342).

The View: Matthew Perry, author of Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir (Flatiron, $29.99, 9781250866448).

TV: The Other Black Girl

Sinclair Daniel (Insidious), Ashleigh Murray (Tom Swift), Brittany Adebumola (4400) and Hunter Parrish (Broadway's To Kill a Mockingbird) will be series regulars on Onyx's The Other Black Girl, based on the 2021 novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris, Deadline reported. Production on the Hulu comedy has begun in Atlanta.

Daniel will play Nella, "a bookish horror fan who is inclined to be a people-pleaser at the start of the season," Deadline wrote. "Murray is Hazel-May McCall, an unapologetically Black and Harlem-cool assistant. Adebumola will take over as Malaika, an old lady at heart who is queer and constantly comparing notes on life goals. And Parrish will play Owen, Nella's family-oriented boyfriend of three years who works as a middle school principal."

Executive producers are Rashida Jones, Temple Hill (Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey), Adam Fishbach, Harris, Jordan Reddout and Gus Hickey. Showrunners are Reddout and Hickey.

Books & Authors

Awards: William Hill Sports Book of the Year Finalists

Five finalists have been unveiled for the £30,000 (about $34,845) William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, which celebrates excellence in the field of sports writing, the Bookseller reported. The winner will be named December 1 in London. Shortlisted authors receive £3,000 (about $3,485) and a leather-bound copy of their book. This year's finalists are:

Be Good, Love Brian: Growing Up with Brian Clough by Craig Bromfield 
God Is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Frank Vandenbroucke, Cycling's Great Wasted Talent by Andy McGrath 
My Hidden Race by Anyika Onuora 
Expected Goals: The Story of How Data Conquered Football and Changed the Game Forever by Rory Smith
Beryl: In Search of Britain's Greatest Athlete, Beryl Burton by Jeremy Wilson

Book Review

Review: At Certain Points We Touch

At Certain Points We Touch by Lauren John Joseph (Bloomsbury, $26 hardcover, 384p., 9781526631305, December 6, 2022)

Lauren John Joseph is extraordinarily talented on many fronts, having written plays, films and pop music (as Alexander Geist), as well as prose. At Certain Points We Touch, their first proper novel (after the experimental work Everything Must Go), distills those talents into a queer, autofictional love story both haunting and hilarious, and crystallizes Joseph as a literary artist of the highest caliber.

The exceedingly eloquent narrator, JJ, was born to be a storyteller, but whether that dream is waylaid or fostered by their impulsivity is anyone's guess. JJ bounces from London to San Francisco, to New York City, to Mexico City; couch-surfing in friends' apartments and wig-swapping their way through gay nightclubs and art galleries. If there is one constant in JJ's eclectic adulthood, it is Thomas James, "a disco Lothario," a sulky bad boy, the man who forever captured JJ's heart with a dispassionate nod and the line, "So, what's the vibe then, eh Bibby?"

Thomas James is a cool customer, aloof and brooding. He is skeptical of queer labels in general, and he is critical of JJ's progressive politics. He bears every red flag like a badge of honor, both infuriating and enchanting his lover. As JJ puts it, "I have no doubt you looked at both 'feminine' and 'working class' as interchangeable and equally loathsome, and that it was a source of great eroticism for you to be taken by someone so debased." Despite their crossed stars, JJ and Thomas James enjoy an explosive sexual connection that infuses every scintillating line of this exceptional novel.

At Certain Points We Touch ruminates on themes of love, loss and queerness with such a mature sense of craft that one can almost hear the scratch of a calligrapher's stylus as they painstakingly etch this elegy to a dead lover. Born out of passion and grief, the novel aches to be the last word on the untimely death of Thomas James, and the emptiness he left in JJ's soul. But Joseph also wields a razor-sharp wit, bursting with wry descriptions and offhand cultural references, such as their scathing assessment of men balking at JJ's unexpectedly low voice while otherwise passing as a woman: "Hadn't any of these clowns ever watched a Lauren Bacall picture?"

Gracefully merging past and present, comedy and pathos, high and low art, Lauren John Joseph has produced a masterpiece. At Certain Points We Touch displays brilliance at every single touchpoint. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: An ornate elegy to a dead love, this funny, sexy and smart first novel displays Lauren John Joseph's many talents.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Damaged Shadows (Shadows Landing Book 9) by Kathleen Brooks
2. Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
4. Naughty or Nice by Various
5. Hell Hath No Fury: Volume One by Various
6. Data Reimagined by Jodi Daniels and Justin Daniels
7. Montana Storm (Resting Warrior Ranch Book 5) by Josie Jade and Janie Crouch
8. Folk Around and Find Out by Penny Reid
9. The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose
10. The Wrong Bride by Catharina Maura

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