Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 11, 2022

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine


Baton Rouge Books Coming to Baton Rouge, La., Next Year

The future Baton Rouge Books.

A new Black-owned independent bookstore called Baton Rouge Books is coming to Baton Rouge, La., early next year, BR Proud reported.

Bookstore founder James Curtis plans to open the store during Black History Month 2023. He is also the owner of Outside Stimuli, a plant shop and studio in Baton Rouge that helps incubate projects with positive social and economic impact. Rather than launch a crowdfunding campaign or apply for grants, he is selling handmade wooden pencil holders for $35 each to help fund the bookstore, with the message being, "with our own hands, we can self-fund."

Pencil holder to support the new bookstore.

Curtis told BR Proud that despite Baton Rouge having a population that is more than half Black, he was one of the very few Black business owners in the city's downtown. Through conversations with customers and community members, he decided that opening a bookstore that better reflects the reality of the city was what Baton Rouge needed.

"You can come into a space where you can not only learn about the people you live amongst, but you can also express who you are and your culture," Curtis said. He added: "We are trying to create something where whether you are a student, whether you are someone who's working or living downtown, there's a space for all of us."

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black

Backwater Books to Open in Ellicott City, Md.

Backwater Books in progress.

Backwater Books will launch soon at 8156 Main Street in Ellicott City, Md. The Baltimore Banner reported that Matt Krist, co-owner of the shop with his wife, Alli Krist, said he is looking forward to bringing back the written word to the building, once home to the Howard County Times newspaper. 

The Krists are former teachers who left education during the pandemic, and are longtime readers and lovers of mystery novels for whom the idea of opening a bookshop seemed like a good fit. 

"There's something very educational about bookstores. It's definitely kind of a romantic idea as well," Matt Krist said, adding that while the area has a used bookstore, Gramp's Attic Books, the historic district currently lacks a place to buy new titles.

In addition to a place to stock up on the latest thrillers, the Krists envision Backwater Books and the upstairs bar as a community gathering place with events for adults and children alike, the Banner noted. Another draw will be the bookstore dog, Chomsky, who will greet shoppers as they browse. "We hope people come by and take him for walks," Matt Krist said. The bookstore is set to open sometime in this month, with the bar opening at a later date.

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!

B&N Store Relocating in Danbury, Conn.

B&N will relocate to the Danbury Fair Mall.

Barnes & Noble will be relocating its Danbury, Conn., bookstore to 7 Backus Ave., in the Danbury Fair Mall, Patch reported. The new store will occupy 19,000 square feet and include a B&N Café. Its opening is expected to coincide with the end of B&N's lease on its current location at 15 Backus Ave., which expires in the spring of 2023 after 31 years.

"While we are sad to be leaving our current home after a very happy 31 years of bookselling, the move to a new location gives us the opportunity to start afresh with a new store," the company said. 

EIBF Conference: Switzerland's LIBER 'Currency' Project

Patrick Schneebeli

At the European & International Booksellers Federation conference during Frankfurt last month, Patrick Schneebeli, president of the Swiss LIBER Association and head of sales and marketing for Scheidegger & Spiess and Park Books, outlined the LIBER project, which was created by Switzerland's main book industry associations in response to the Covid pandemic as a way to reinvigorate business for Swiss bookstores, publishers and authors after the lockdowns in 2020 were eased.

Hadi Barkat, founder and head of publisher Helvetiq, came up with the idea, whose core was a LIBER-Bon, "a currency" that could be used solely to buy books in-person in bookstores. The LIBER-Bons had a face value of CHF50 or CHF100 (since one Swiss franc is equal to one dollar, about $50 and $100 each) and could be purchased by readers for themselves or as gifts for CHF30 or CHF60--a 40% discount.

Five Swiss book organizations, reflecting the country's main official languages, became partners in the project--LivreSuisse, Schweizer Buchhandels- und Verlag-Verband, Swiss Independent Publishers, Associazione Librai ed Editori della Svizzera Italiana and A*DS, the Swiss authors group. Altogether the organizations represented more than 600 bookstores and publishers, as well as 1,000 authors.

The group raised CHF565,000 from a range of sources, including federal states, cities and towns, and public and private foundations, and the five associations contributed nearly CHF50,000. The money went to finance the value of the coupons as well as cover operating costs, which included the "bank notes," point-of-sale material, posters, bookmarks, social media, a website, and author remuneration for appearances at events supported by LIBER. Funds were also used to support directly authors and their publishers.

The campaign launched to the public near the end of October 2021. By the end of the four-week purchase period, some 14,100 LIBER notes had been sold for about CHF620,000 with a nominal value of CHF1,011,000, all in time for the holiday season. By February of this year, 25% of the notes had been used, and as of this past September half of the notes had been used.

The notes are valid for five years, and any unused money will go to support authors and their Swiss publishers and will not go back to the sponsoring associations.

In conclusion, Scheebeli called the program "a success, a lot of work, great fun," and an inspiration for future joint campaigns to promote books. --John Mutter

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Private Rites
by Julia Armfield
GLOW: Flatiron Books: Private Rites by Julia Armfield

In Private Rites, Julia Armfield (Our Wives Under the Sea; salt slow) offers an atmospheric meditation on sisterhood and loss at the end of the world. Living in a bleak, water-inundated city where the rain rarely stops, Isla, Irene, and Agnes are shocked at the abrupt death of their father, who has left his house to only one of them. As they grapple with his last manipulation, they must grapple, too, with what it means to have relationships with each other beyond his reach. As Flatiron Books executive editor Caroline Bleeke notes, Armfield's novel may be about "difficult things," yet it "manages to be so funny, so loving, so brilliant, and so beautifully, singularly written." Private Rites is a testament to the light that can be found in each other, even in the darkest of times. --Alice Martin

(Flatiron, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781250344311, December 3, 2024)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Flyleaf Books Hosts Tracy Deonn

Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C., hosted Tracy Deonn (r.) at an off-site launch for her YA novel Bloodmarked, the sequel to Legendborn. Deonn was interviewed by Flyleaf floor manager Talia Smart (l.). A sold-out audience of more than 350 guests attended at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, N.C., which has hosted Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth, among many others, in its 50-year history.

Cool Idea of the Day: #NaNoWriMo Write-ins

November is National Novel Writing Month, and Loganberry Books, Shaker Heights, Ohio, posted on Instagram: "Are you doing #NaNoWriMo this year? Would you like a beautiful bookstore to type away in for inspiration?? WE HAVE SUCH GOOD NEWS. Our #nationalnovelwritingmonth write ins are back! From 6-8:30pm this Thursday and next Thursday you can bring your laptop or tablet or notebook and come get comfy at Loganberry to write the next great novel we can't wait to read and sell!"

Personnel Changes at Storey Publishing

Alee Moncy has been promoted to associate director, publicity & marketing of Storey Publishing, responsible for both the adult and children's lists. She was formerly publicity & marketing campaign director. Moncy joined Storey in 2009 as associate publicist.

Book Trailer of the Day: A Wish for Winter

A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman (Graydon House). Incidentally the bookstore in A Wish for Winter is based on the author's beloved bookstore, McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, Mich., which appears briefly in this trailer.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Robert Kotlowitz on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Robert Kotlowitz, author of Before Their Time: A Memoir (Anchor, $14.95, 9780385496032).

Movies: Memories of My Father

A clip and poster have been released for the film Memories of My Father, based on Héctor Abad Faciolince's 2006 book Oblivion: A Memoir. The movie "dramatizes the true story of Héctor Abad Gómez (Javier Cámara), a renowned Colombian doctor and human-rights activist in Medellín during the violent 1970s. Driven by sadness and rage after cancer takes the life of one of his daughters, he devotes himself to social and political causes without regard to his personal safety," Film Stage reported.

Directed by Fernando Trueba (Belle Époque, The Queen of Spain), Memories of My Father is set for a release November 16. The cast also includes Whit Stillman, Patricia Tamayo, and Juan Pablo Urrego. Memories of My Father was a selection at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Goldsmiths Winner

Diego Garcia by Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams won the £10,000 (about $11,715) Goldsmiths Prize, which celebrates "the spirit of creative daring" and rewards "fiction that breaks the mold and extends the possibilities of the novel form." This is the first time in the prize's 10-year history that a writing duo has won. 

Chair of judges Tim Parnell said: "By turns funny, moving, and angry, Diego Garcia is as compelling to read as it is intricately wrought. For Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams collaboration is both method and politics. Against the dogmatism of the single-voiced fiction that informed the British government's expulsion of the Chagossian people from their homeland, they respond not only with rigorous critique, but also with an understanding of the relationship between voice and power which shapes the very form of Diego Garcia. A marvelous book which extends the scope of the novel form."

Judge Ali Smith commented: "An extraordinary achievement, this single novel composed by two writers is both a paean to connectivity and a profound study of the tragedy of human disconnect. At its core is an excoriation of a set of specific colonial foulnesses and injustices: the forced depopulation of the Chagos Islands and their expedient use by the U.K. and the U.S. as a military base and bargaining chip. At its heart is an experiment with form that asks what fiction is, what art is for, and how, against the odds, to make visible, questionable and communal the structures, personal and political, of contemporary society, philosophy, lived history."

Reading with... Cat Fitzpatrick

photo: Hobbes Ginsberg

Cat Fitzpatrick is the editrix at LittlePuss Press (a new feminist press run by two trans women). She wrote the poetry collection Glamourpuss (Topside Press) and co-edited the Stonewall Award-winning anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers (LittlePuss Press). Her first novel (in rhyme), The Call-Out (Seven Stories Press, October 25, 2022), is a tragicomedy of manners.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A typical high-society comedy of manners in sparkling rhymed verse but, instead of high society, it's weirdo transsexuals and, instead of manners, it's justice.

On your nightstand now:

Diana Hamilton's God Was Right. Imagine if Anne Carson was coherent! And likable.

John Keene's Punks. Such Range! Such Virtuosity! Such Homosexuality!

Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. My favourite book, rereading again. I <3 Criseyde. False whores 4ever.

Favorite book when you were a child:

At age 4: There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake [by Hazel Edwards] in which a girl attributes all occurrences to the intervention of a hippopotamus, whose existence adults cannot verify. At the time, I read it to mean: adults are incurious and mistaken and the hippo is real. I stand by this interpretation.

At age 8: The Secret Island, Enid Blyton's best book. No mystery, no solution. Just children running away from bad adults and learning to survive together on an island in a lake. This is objectively the best children's book plot.

Your top five authors:

Okay, alive ones:

Jeanne Thornton. Summer Fun is so good and big and deep and coherent and kind and humanistic. I know no one is trying to write the Great American Novel anymore, except Jonathan Franzen, but Jeanne Thornton actually did it and it's GAY. Maybe you can only do something like that if you're not trying to.

Susanna Clarke. When Piranesi came out, I got it for Christmas and I also got a bottle of 2008 Rudolf Fürst Centgrafenberg Pinot Noir. And on Saint Stephen's Day I got in the bath and read the whole book and drank the whole bottle in one sitting and I think I really did enter a parallel universe.

Kazuo Ishiguro. Yes, he already won the Nobel Prize, but sometimes people who win prizes and get famous are good too.

Sybil Lamb. TRUE Outsider Literature, I've Got a Time Bomb is the deepest, most picaresque and insane yet fathoming trawl through the chaos and destitution of North America available to the reading public. Also no one can abuse a grammatical structure the way Lamb can. It is like watching porn or gymnastics.

Shola von Reinhold. Lote is a novel about an overdressed con artist faking her way into a racist conceptual art residency, but it's also an overwhelmingly gorgeous argument for the political necessity of ornament, excess, aestheticism and historical obsession as a progressive force of joy. No exaggeration: I have been waiting for a book like Lote all my life, and now the way forward is clear.

For dead authors, I'll say Chaucer, Gawain Poet, Rochester, Byron, Barrett Browning. Comic verse narrative is the greatest historical genre BRING IT BACK oh wait I did.

Book you've faked reading:

SO MANY. Okay, fine: How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Cecilia Gentili's memoir, Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown who Isn't My Rapist, which I edited for LittlePuss. Trans memoirs (the only genre of trans writing cis publishers would historically accept) have always been about displaying trans lives for a cis audience. Look: my surgeries, my dysphoria, my pathetic need for you to accept me. Cecilia mentions none of this. Instead, she turns a ruthless trans gaze on the cis, straight, Catholic Argentinian society she grew up in, stripping away its pretenses, revealing its crimes, from gossip, to fraud, to murder, to worse. I have never read a book that manages to be so funny about such pain.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Bishakh Som's Apsara Engine. What an artist! Contents are good too.

Book you hid from your parents:

They hid it from me first! Erica Jong's Fanny, which I found concealed in their wardrobe, and stole and which introduced me to lesbian BDSM. Thanks, ma!

Book that changed your life:

UGH. Okay. Nevada by Imogen Binnie. It didn't make me realise I'm trans, like it apparently did for everyone else (I'd already been trans for, like, 13 years), but it did make me go: whoever published this, I need to be part of it, which led to me joining Topside Press, which led to me starting LittlePuss Press with Casey Plett, which led to me repeatedly throwing literally the biggest transsexual parties ever at my house. Great result.

Favorite line from a book:

Let's say Hopkins: "Glory be to God for dappled things."

Five books you'll never part with:

Is this about physical copies? Certainly, The Riverside Chaucer I received as a school prize with my dead name on the bookplate and which I am constantly trying to prevent the final disintegration of. My copy of Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food, the greatest cookbook ever, with all its many suggestive memorious stains. The small, gorgeous art book about Renaissance miniatures, written in Italian, which I and my BFF, Benjamin Crabstick, stole in our youth from a horrible bar where it was being used as *decoration*. The copy of Moscow to the End of the Line I stole from Benjamin Crabstick and which I know he still wants back. And most of all, my complete set of Terry Pratchett books with the old cover designs. If I had to pick one, it would be Reaper Man, with its cover that is a memento mori parody of Bruegel's The Harvesters.

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

I read Middlemarch for the first time when I was 12, and I have never before or since felt such glee at anything. Then and there I dedicated my life to literature. I would do it again.

Book Review

Review: Liar, Dreamer, Thief

Liar, Dreamer, Thief by Maria Dong (Grand Central, $28 hardcover, 336p., 9781538723562, January 10, 2023)

Maria Dong's debut novel, Liar, Dreamer, Thief, is a masterfully harrowing adventure for both reader and narrator. Katrina Kim is 24 years old and struggling to keep it together. She's not great at her temp job at an insurance company; she has no real friends other than her mostly absent roommate; she relies on rituals involving geometry and prime numbers to feel safe from her shapeless, apparently irrational fears; she frequently imagines herself into the magical world of her favorite children's book or the classical works of music she once performed. She argues that she is not stalking her coworker Kurt, but readers will suspect this may be semantics. She has $45 in her bank account and her parents haven't spoken to her in years. Readers may assume Katrina is struggling with an undiagnosed mental illness, drawing endekagrams (a star polygon with 11 points) to help her get through the days--until she happens to watch Kurt jump off her favorite bridge, while shouting that it is all her fault.

Liar, Dreamer, Thief is punctuated with geometry lessons (the four stellations of the endekagram) and passages from the fantasy book that provides Katrina with her other, safer-feeling life, emphasizing these coping mechanisms as she embarks on an amateur (and poorly funded) investigation into Kurt's disappearance. Her barely functional life goes further to pieces. Just as readers begin to worry that this narrator is not only unreliable but completely unstable, the clues shift slightly, and suddenly it appears that some of Katrina's nastiest and most fantastical fears may be all too real.

This is a completely absorbing novel, both a terrifying whodunit thriller and a heart-wrenching drama about mental health, family, loneliness and moral relativism. Dong's pacing and revelation of secrets is expert; beware staying up late to finish Katrina's story in one go (and, perhaps, beware nightmares of the Mirror Man). Katrina makes some cringe-worthy choices while facing challenges both existential and mundane (clocking in on time in the cubical farm); she is an imperfect protagonist but disturbingly accessible, and indomitable even in her lowest moments. Liar, Dreamer, Thief excels at empathy and conveying the frustration of one's own limitations, as Katrina wonders, "Does everyone in my orbit have a secret tragedy, just crawling underneath the surface?" Its mysteries swell toward a denouement that feels simultaneously unwieldy and inevitable. Probing those secrets may be mortally dangerous--or may be Katrina's salvation.

This exceptional debut novel showcases relentless momentum, horrors, compassion and an unforgettable protagonist: not to be missed. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A young woman relies on ritual and fantasy to navigate her daily life--until the real world turns as bizarre as her worst fears.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Veterans Day--Keeping Books, Keeping Time, Reading My Father

On Veterans Day, I think of my father, who landed on Utah Beach in August 1944 with the 243rd Field Artillery Battalion. He died at 50, taking his memories with him. He was a quiet man, so I had to read him as best I could, mostly between the lines.

There's one book, however, that does connect me to the 23-year-old poor kid from Castleton, Vt., who'd been working for the Vermont Marble Co. in a quarry before he was drafted. Captain Frank Smith's Battle Diary: The 243rd Field Artillery Battalion in World War Two was self-published in 1946, and a copy sent to everyone in the battalion, with their names and home addresses listed in an index. It's really an edited version of daily after action reports. I've read it many times. 

My father didn't talk about his war, but in Battle Diary I can follow his shadow as he slogged across France to Germany. When I first approached the book many years ago, I was cautious, assuming it was the enemy before gradually discovering an ally. That's what books can sometimes do.

Battle Diary is about time passing dangerously, within the deceptive context of daily routines, like this: "14 March 1945--Six rounds of 170 mm slammed into B's number 1 gun position at around 2400 last night. All men were in the cellar except the guard on the piece, who quickly dropped into a spade pit. One round hit only eight yards away, tearing holes into five rounds of ammunition but leaving him unhurt." My mother, at some point, scribbled "your father" on the page, with an arrow pointing to the entry. My anonymous old man, under fire.

He would have turned 102 years old October 29 if he hadn't died July 17, 1971. This means he has been gone from my life longer than he was in it, which is one way of reading time. Marble is another, its geological history mocking human timekeepers. Had my father been a superhero in one of the comics I read, he would've been called Marbleman, defying time like stone. But he wasn't, and time won that battle handily.

If someone saw real action during World War II, they generally didn't talk about it much. When I was a kid, we knew those vets in town. They scared and intrigued us. 

Any details I have about his war come from the scattered paperwork he left behind. For example, I can read a form that tells me he was in the Army for 38 months, rose to the rank of Private First Class. He was a Cannoneer, Heavy Artillery. His job description: "As a crew member of an eight-inch gun using separate loading ammunition, assisted in moving, emplacing, firing, and withdrawing the piece in combat operations. Set up and fired gun, assisted in such maintenance as cleaning and oiling of gun. Performed these duties for 17 months overseas." 

Overseas is a pleasant word that, in this context, has deadly implications, including battles in Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. He was awarded Good Conduct and Victory medals. He did his job, came back home, and went down into one of the quarries again, before eventually being transferred to the finishing shop in Proctor.

Worker's punch clock, Vermont Marble Co. office, circa 1870.

Later in his life he worked in the Vermont Marble Co.'s machine shop, where he would eventually earn a promotion to the position of timekeeper, a job he never explained to us beyond the fact that it had something to do with calculating payroll, with punch clocks and, well, with keeping time for other workers. 

My father wasn't much of a book reader, but he made an exception for anything about General George S. Patton, who, as it happens, had been a voracious reader. His biographer, Martin Blumenson, observed in Patton: The Man Behind the Legend, 1885-1945 (1985) that "he jumped from vulgarity to scholarship as nimbly as a cat." 

In Battle Diary, I read: "Upon arrival in England the battalion was informed that it was assigned to the Third Army, commanded by the already fabulous George S. Patton, Jr., and then marshalling for movement into France for a decisive strike against the Germans." Later, Smith notes: "As Patton's Army moved from the Moselle to the Saar, all three batteries of the 243rd followed closely behind the doughboys and tanks."

My father had been just another small-town boy captured in his natural habitat and released into the organized chaos of a monumental and terrifying moment in world history. Patton once wrote: "The most vital quality a soldier can possess is self-confidence, utter, complete and bumptious." Hard for me to think of my father that way. An unlikely pair, those two, and yet one of the last books I recall my father reading was Ladislas Farago's Patton: Ordeal and Triumph (1964). 

At the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor, there are blown-up, grainy photographs depicting early 20th-century marble workers posing down in the quarries, or beside their gang saws, or shielding their eyes from sun reflecting off marble slabs in the yards. All of them stare grimly at the camera, as if to say: You done yet? We got work to do. They could be soldiers; some probably were.

The museum also has an exhibit depicting the origin story for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Vermont Marble Co. workers quarried, sawed and fabricated those blocks, then delivered them by rail to Arlington National Cemetery in 1931 to be assembled and finished.

Just thinking about the complexity of that word--unknown. Hard man to read, my father.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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