Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Random House Worlds: Damsel by Evelyn Skye

St. Martin's Press: The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Soho Crime: The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura, transl. by Sam Bett

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Grand Central Publishing: Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel by Leesa Cross-Smith

Texas Bookman Presents Texas Remainder Expo

Steve Madden Ltd: The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell from Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden and Jodi Lipper

St. Martin's Griffin: The Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela M. Kelley


Stacks Book Club Planned for Tucson, Ariz.

Stacks Book Club will open next spring on the west end of Oro Valley Marketplace at 1880 E. Tangerine Road, in Tucson, Ariz. The Daily Star reported that co-owners Crispin and Elizabeth Jeffrey-Franco, whose new venture will also serve as a café offering coffee, beer and wine, hope to be up and running by the end of April.

The Jeffrey-Francos grew up on the city's northwest side, and after living in bigger cities, moved back in 2019 to be closer to family. Once there, they noticed a lack of bookstore cafés in the area.

"We saw them in other cities," Crispin Jeffrey-Franco said, mentioning Phoenix's Changing Hands store and its First Draft Book Bar. "Tucson has lots of great bookstores and lots of great cafés. For us, there is something about combining the two that makes being in that kind of space really liberating."

Stacks Book Club pop-up

Due to the Covid pandemic, they first launched their book business as a pop-up at local restaurants, in tap rooms and at farmers markets, to build the brand and get a sense of what people were reading. "We had a great time," Crispin Jeffrey-Franco said. "So many businesses have allowed us to test out this concept."

When choosing a bricks-and-mortar location, they opted for Oro Valley, where they could attract customers from nearby communities in Catalina, SaddleBrooke, Marana and northwest Tucson.

Stacks Book Club will sell primarily new titles. "Books are the things we are passionate about," he added. "Having the café to add to that experience makes it a more sustainable model for us." 

Their long-term plan is to "become a place for community in Oro Valley. They hope to sell items from local makers and artists, and a section of the store will serve as a designated meeting place for book clubs and other local groups," the Daily Star wrote. 

Blackstone Publishing: What Remains by Wendy Walker

Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, N.C., a 'Beacon of Light' After Power Grid Attack

Customers during the outage.

With power out in much of Moore County, N.C., following a targeted attack on two power transmission substations Saturday night, the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines has been trying to be a "beacon of light" for the community by staying open and distributing free children's books along with soup, chili and snacks.

"We wanted today to bring a little spirit to everybody," said bookstore manager Kimberly Daniels Taws on Tuesday. She's run the 3,000-square-foot shop for the past 10 years and reported that people in town have been "dispirited and demoralized," and the fact that the outage was caused by a deliberate attack has been a particularly "tough cookie for people to swallow."

With that in mind, Daniels Taws and her team wanted to "remind people of what our community really is and who we really are." They received a $2,000 donation from First Bank in Southern Pines to give away children's books, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. yesterday they gave out free books and food. The bookstore was the only store open in downtown Southern Pines, there were people "lined up at the door" and it was a "heartwarming experience," she said.

Kimberly Daniels Taws serving soup during the blackout.

By the end of the event the team had exceeded the value of that initial donation and were out of food. Nevertheless the bookstore will hold another community giveaway today and "eat the cost," though the Country Bookshop is accepting donations through its website. After the event on Tuesday, Daniels Taws drove up to Raleigh to "make a lot more soup" for today.

Despite the cost, she continued, "we need to bring people's spirits up." She feels it is "really important for the bookshop to be a beacon of light for people, and that is the main thing. That's all I can do."

Daniels Taws recalled that when power went out on Saturday evening, it became clear pretty quickly that it was "not a regular power outage," due to the fact that several towns in the area lost power at once. "Even a giant ice storm," she said, "is not that complete," though it was not until Sunday that it was widely known that an attack caused the outage.

For the first 24 hours or so, people were processing the fact that "this is happening," and figuring out "how do we get through it." People in town have been "shell shocked," Daniels Taws added, and she and her team decided that they would close on Monday but from Tuesday forward be "open no matter what" and in "any capacity we could."

"People need to come together right now," Daniels Taws said. --Alex Mutter

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum

BLK + BRWN. Bookstore, Kansas City, Mo., Launches Crowdfunding Campaign

Cori Smith, the owner of BLK + BRWN in Kansas City, Mo., has launched a $20,000 crowdfunding campaign as the bookstore begins "officially amping up for phase two of our plan for BLK + BRWN.," including salary compensation for a part-time employee and a rent fund for a larger space.

"Many of you all know that BLK + BRWN. has been a one-woman show (but always shout out to the incredible people that come through and volunteer to help out) since our existence," Smith wrote in an Instagram post. "2023 means we are almost at our TWO year mark and it's time to think bigger. I am grateful for all the support that has flooded in since launching our website, opening the bookstore, surviving a cyberattack, and through the other incredible wins and setbacks along the way. But as programming increases, our ecosystem grows, and word is spread--I simply cannot keep up with it all by myself and we have begun to outgrow our tiny space."

On the GoFundMe site, Smith added: "The goal for this tiny bookstore to become a community-safe space has come around full circle, and as our ecosystem continues to grow, so does our need to make more space for those to come and be a part. Our next major milestone is a bigger space and a team. This operation has been the brainchild and product of a one-woman show. But, to keep up with the demands and stay transparent about my capacity, it's time to expand the team officially. Because this is for us, it was essential to be able to make the ask to the community at large to help us make this a reality."

William Morrow & Company: The God of Good Looks by Breanne Mc Ivor

International Update: London's Al Saqi Books, Canadian Distributor Thomas Allen & Son to Close

Al Saqi Books in London, Europe's largest specialist bookseller for Middle Eastern books, "has been forced to close because of the hike in prices of Arabic-language books and because Brexit has been 'detrimental' to its business," the Guardian reported, adding that the store will shutter December 31. 

Founded in 1978 by Andre and Salwa Gaspard and the late Mai Ghoussoub, three friends who had settled in London from war-torn Lebanon, Al Saqi Books sells works on the Middle East and north Africa in English, and on all subjects in Arabic. In a statement, the shop described itself as a "leading light not only for Middle Eastern expatriates, but for visitors from across the region keen to obtain works banned in their own countries."

Salwa Gaspard, the bookshop's director, said it was a "difficult decision that had to be made because of recent economic challenges, such as the sharp increases in Arabic-language book prices," adding that the bookshop used to source and buy its stock from Lebanon, "but the economic situation there has made this all but impossible.... Publishers have had to raise them to stay in business, as paper and shipping have effectively doubled in cost. Another factor is the exchange rate, which is no longer favorable to us--we used to pay in U.S. dollars. Then, of course, there is the rise in the [U.K.] cost of living. The costs associated with operating the bookshop have become too high."

She added that Brexit was also a factor: "We used to sell many books to the EU, which is no longer feasible because of duties and such. Arabic libraries in the U.K.--another important part of our business--are buying far fewer books. And we have lost a large part of our customer base as Arab visitors from overseas are not visiting in the same numbers. There is a generational issue there, as well: younger people do not stop by as often as their parents did."

The publishing arms, Saqi Books and Dar al Saqi, will remain open, operating from new premises in west London. Lynn Gaspard, publisher of Saqi Books, told the Bookseller: "This will be sad news for many in our community as the bookshop has been a home for the Arab diaspora. To me, Al Saqi is much more than just a bookshop. I have grown up at Saqi: my sister and I spent hours playing among the books. It has been a privilege to run Saqi Books and to work alongside my parents. We will miss operating alongside the bookshop, but look forward to the next chapter in Saqi's history.... Saqi and Dar al Saqi share many loyal readers with the bookshop, and we are excited at the prospect of bringing the best in new and classic writing from the Arab world to audiences in the U.K. and beyond for years to come."


Canadian publisher and distributor Thomas Allen & Son, which was founded in 1916 and is the oldest, family-owned and -operated book distributor in Canada, will be closing at the end of March 2023. The decision, which has been in the planning stages for a number of months, was announced by company president and CEO Jim Allen. Effective April 2023, Firefly Books Ltd. will be the Canadian distributor of many of the publishing companies that Thomas Allen & Son currently represents in the country.

Noting that the closure is in large measure the result of ongoing consolidation in the international book publishing industry and the resulting re-organization of traditional book distribution practices in Canada, Allen said that in 2021, after making the decision to close the company, he met with Firefly Books president Lionel Koffler and presented him with an opportunity that would also benefit the staff of Thomas Allen & Son.

Workman Publishing's books and calendars represented a significant portion of Thomas Allen & Son's annual sales. The 52-year relationship with Workman will end as of March 31, 2023, and is not transferable. In the future, shipments to Canadian customers will be made directly from a Hachette warehouse in Indiana. 

"For over 100 years, Thomas Allen & Son has established long-standing agreements with major American publishing firms," said Allen. "The success of the company as a book distributor was built on these close relationships, which in the beginning were made with a hand shake between Allen family members and the principals of these American firms. I would like to express my gratitude to all of our valued customers who have been so supportive over the years. Our company has flourished for over a century thanks to your loyalty and our business relationships."

Koffler added: "Firefly Books looks forward to continuing to build on these strong relationships with personal attention that will benefit booksellers and their valued customers." --Robert Gray

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

Atria Executive Editor Trish Todd to Retire

Trish Todd

Trish Todd, v-p, executive editor for Atria Books, will retire at the end of this year. For the past 27 years, Todd has been part of Simon & Schuster, with key roles at Touchstone, S&S and, for the last four years, at Atria.  

"While Trish is perhaps best known for her role in making Philippa Gregory a bestselling franchise, and in helping to bring her to be published by Simon & Schuster on a worldwide basis, she has had a long and celebrated list of bestsellers in both the nonfiction and fiction arenas," noted Lindsay Sagnette, v-p, editorial director, Atria Books.

Earlier in her career, Todd worked as an editorial assistant at McGraw-Hill and Arbor House before joining Pocket Books. She then worked briefly as a publicist and spent three years as a literary agent before joining Berkley as a senior editor. In 1990, she moved to Dell, and rose to become associate publisher of trade paperbacks, acquiring and editing numerous paperback bestsellers and notable reprints. During her career, she has acquired a long list of bestselling books across multiple imprints at S&S.

"Trish's sales presentations are a master class in how to position a title with precision, flair, and a sense of limitless possibility," Sagnette observed. "The passionate connection she feels for her books and authors is contagious. We will miss having her wise counsel, her ready wit, and her deep knowledge of all things publishing just down the hall." 


Weird Prank Calls of the Season

Recently someone has been calling independent bookstores asking for a book that doesn't exist that usually has Aardvark or Baboon in the title or is about country singer Roy Clark.

While the bookseller is on the phone looking up the book, the original caller calls another bookstore or several bookstores and patches them in. As the first bookseller says the book doesn't exist, the other booksellers on the line are confused, with everyone wondering who called whom. "You called me." "No, you called me!" are typical comments. The original caller is silent and soon there all kinds of squeals and warbles and finally very loud static.

The prank calls have been made to stores in Wisconsin and other states. The calls appear to come from California, Oregon and "private" lines. It's happened enough so that some stores greet their fellow booksellers and all hang up.

Many thanks to Daniel Goldin and Chris Lee of Boswell Book Co., Milwaukee, Wis., for bringing this to our attention!

In-bookshop Snowfall: Novelette Booksellers

"Literally crazy but it SNOWED in the shop!" Novelette Booksellers, Nashville, Tenn., posted on Instagram. "Or like I guess it's STILL snowing in the shop! And will be all winter! WOW weather is honestly so unpredictable who could have imagined this would happen. Definitely not our brilliant crafty Cara who may or may not have made this happen!! We have awesome books and holiday gifts and now you can walk into a winter wonderland so to quote Gwen Stefani, 'take a chance, you stupid ho.' See yaaa."

Costco Picks: The Hidden Palace

Alex Kanenwisher, book buyer at Costco, has selected The Hidden Palace by Dinah Jefferies (‎‎HarperCollins, $26.99, 9780008544652) as the pick for December. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, Kanenwisher writes:

"Dinah Jefferies is known for her engaging historical novels. Her latest, The Hidden Palace, is told in two time periods: 1925 and 1944. One plot tells of a rebellious daughter and the other is the story of a woman who asks her daughter to find the mother's sister who disappeared years before.

"Jefferies takes readers on an unforgettable journey in this gem about sisters and secrets. It's also the second book in her Daughters of War trilogy."

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular November Books

The two most popular books in November at Reading Group Choices were Zorrie by Laird Hunt (Bloomsbury) and The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson (Sourcebooks Landmark).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Lisa Damour on CBS Mornings

CBS Mornings: Lisa Damour, author of The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents (Ballantine, $28, 9780593500019).

TV: We Were The Lucky Ones

Hulu's limited series We Were the Lucky Ones, based on Georgia Hunter's 2017 novel, is adding Amit Rahav (Unorthodox), Eva Feiler (The Crown) and Hadas Yaron (Mary Magdalene) to the cast. The project "is inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive and to reunite," Deadline reported. Joey King (The Act) stars, along with Robin Weigert and Lior Ashkenazi.

The series is executive produced and written by Erica Lipez (Julia, The Morning Show), who also serves as showrunner. Thomas Kail (Fosse/Verdon) directs and executive produces, along with Jennifer Todd (for Old 320 Sycamore). Adam Milch executive produces and Hunter will co-executive produce.

Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Book of the Year; Center for Fiction First Novel Winner

The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel has been chosen as Waterstones Book of the Year 2022. Waterstones said: "Our booksellers all agree: rarely is a book so groundbreaking and authoritative also so much fun. Blowing apart the artistic canon with passion, color and effervescent style, Katy Hessel's magnificent The Story of Art Without Men... tells an enthralling story of influence and innovation featuring names seldom heard in previous art histories, and it does it with an accessibility and verve that is nothing short of irresistible. Beautifully produced with an abundance of breathtaking images and framed by striking graphic design, The Story of Art Without Men is a veritable work of art itself and the perfect gift to find under the tree this Christmas."

Waterstones COO Kate Skipper commented: "Our booksellers championed The Story of Art Without Men from the start. It is a must-have for any booklover's shelf: as essential as it is enjoyable. Written with wit and ease, the resulting book, packed full of beautiful illustrations, can be devoured in one-sitting or dipped into at a whim. This is a book which will be prized for years to come; a feast for the senses, as well as the mind."

The Story of Art Without Men will be published in the U.S. next year by Norton.

Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry, was named Waterstones Author of the Year; and A.F. Steadman's Skandar and the Unicorn Thief was chosen Waterstones Children's Book of the Year.


If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga (Graywolf Press) has won the $15,000 2022 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Organizers said, "If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English takes place in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, when an Egyptian-American daughter of immigrants, nostalgic for the country she's never lived in, falls in love with a man she meets in Cairo. He was a photographer of the revolution, but is now addicted to cocaine and living in a shack. When their relationship takes a violent turn, the fallout exposes the gaps in American identity politics and reexamines the faces of empire."

Reading with... Megan Whalen Turner

(photo: Jeannette Palsa)

Megan Whalen Turner, an author of fantasy for children and young adults, received a 1997 Newbery Honor for The Thief, the first of her Queen's Thief series. Her books are filled with political machinations, divine intervention, friendship, fortitude and deceit. Moira's Pen (Greenwillow Books) is a compendium of short pieces from the world of her Queen's Thief series, illustrated by Deena So'Oteh.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Put on your hiking boots, pick up a knapsack and join me as I tour the world of the Queen's Thief.

On your nightstand now:

The last time I answered that question, I was living temporarily in Del Mar, Calif. I didn't have a nightstand and all my books were on the floor. Now I am back home in Shaker Heights, I have a nightstand, and it turns out all my books are still on the floor.

Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend; Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual; Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth and Nona the Ninth; M.L. Buchman's Estate Planning for Authors; I'm Waiting for You by Kim Bo-Young.

I've just finished My Brilliant Friend and now wish I hadn't put it off so long. Life: A User's Manual I read intermittently--it's a whale to consume one savory bite at a time. I started on Nona the Ninth and had to go back to begin again with Gideon when I realized that I've forgotten tiny but crucial details. I don't know where my brain went during the pandemic, but I hope it comes home soon.

The Buchman book was very motivating. It has been years since I first read Neil Gaiman's advice that creative artists make a will and name an executor for their intellectual property. Now that I've finally done it, I'm telling everyone they should do it. If you're a writer, please make an estate plan. You don't want your life's work left in limbo or in the hands of people who won't take good care of it.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Not What You Expected by Joan Aiken. Before I started this collection, I thought all short stories were like the dry, mealy ones I read for school. Aiken's magical stories really were not what I expected. When I finished reading, I wanted more stories so much I was willing to try writing them myself. I finally did, publishing Instead of Three Wishes in 1995. Kim Bo-Young's book on beside my nightstand is evidence that the interest in short fiction that Aiken kindled has not dimmed.

Your top five authors:

As this is an impossible task, I'm going to cheat by adding "of short fiction" before the colon.
Joan Aiken, Ursula Le Guin, Ann Beattie, Natalie Babbitt, John Barth.

Book you've faked reading:

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. Fair warning, I wouldn't describe it as horror, but it is gruesome. A man very much like a god takes in a handful children after the death of their parents and raises them to be librarians of an impossible library. I finished it and immediately started reading again.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Gerhard Munthe: Norwegian Pioneer of Modernism by Jan Kokkin. Honestly, I would have bought it anyway, but when I saw the gorgeous coffee table book on a trip to Oslo what I should have done was order a copy online and pick it up from my local bookshop like a sensible person. Instead, I bought it immediately and then had to lug it all the way home.

Book you hid from your parents:

I am so grateful that I never needed to hide a book from my parents.

Book that changed your life:

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones. If my friend hadn't let me take his copy home with me, I might never have fallen in love with Diana's work, would never have written to her, would never have received her advice and encouragement and almost certainly would not be published today.

Favorite line from a book:

Lois McMaster Bujold writes a series of books about the Vorkosigan family beginning with The Warrior's Apprentice--or with Shards of Honor depending on how you are introduced to them. When Cordelia Vorkosigan is asked to rein in her impetuous offspring for his own safety, she says, "He has a right to choose his own risks. And to run them."

I love that combination of empowerment and its associated consequences. I think we can be so focused on keeping our children safe that we deny them the agency and the sometimes-negative experiences they need to grow. I see this in discussions of censorship and banning books. People want to "protect" readers, but that's because they don't trust those readers to make decisions for themselves. They'd let their kids ride a bike, knowing they might get hurt, but won't let them risk reading a book for the same reason.

Five books you'll never part with:

Reading a book knowing that my mother, my grandmother or a friend has held and read that same book means a great deal to me. These books connect me to people I love.

That copy of Dogsbody which my friend graciously said I could keep after it was clear I was never ever giving it back.

My Ántonia by Willa Cather, given to me when I was 13 by a beloved family friend. I was so honored that she thought I was grown up enough to appreciate it.

My mother's copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

My grandmother's copy of Graustark by George Barr McCutcheon.

My great-grandmother's copy of The Conqueror by Gertrude Franklin Atherton, her maiden name on the inside cover. We know very little about her beyond that she was a maternal nurse who emigrated from England very young and never spoke of the family she left behind. Maybe I freight it with too much significance that this fictionalized biography of Alexander Hamilton is a book she never parted with.

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

I can't help thinking that even if you have a book magically erased from your memory you aren't going to be the same person you were when you read it the first time. When I was asked this question before, I answered Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston because that book rocked my world. Now in my 50s, I realize I'd never exchange a chance to read it again for the first time for the memory of reading it at 19.

So, I'm going to say Gideon the Ninth because 2020 me is still very similar to 2022 me in the ways that 2022 is still way too similar to 2020. And that book is an effing delight.

Book Review

YA Review: The Minus-One Club

The Minus-One Club by Kekla Magoon (Holt Books for Young Readers, $19.99 hardcover, 368p., ages 13-up, 9781250806208, January 24, 2023)

In this gritty and emotional young adult novel, Kekla Magoon (The Season of Styx Malone; X: A Novel), four-time Coretta Scott King Honor recipient and winner of the 2010 John Steptoe Award for New Talent, gives young adults another heartfelt, sincere work of contemporary realism.

Fifteen-year-old Kermit Sanders lost his older sister, Sheila, when "an intoxicated pickup driver... crossed a double yellow line and smashed" into her car. It has been a week since the accident and everything reminds him of her. When he returns to school, he finds an anonymous note in his locker with an invitation to meet in the art room. The letter is mysteriously signed "-1." Kermit, uncertain of what he's getting himself into, goes and is met with a group of his schoolmates who call themselves the "Minus-One Club." Although they're in different social groups, they all have one thing in common: the tragic loss of someone they loved. The group offers moral support to each other and welcomes Kermit, so long as he follows the rules. "1. Tell no one else about us. 2. We never talk about IT. 3. Ever. 4. Ever."

Kermit's crush, Matt Rincorn, is also a member of the group, and he soon takes Kermit under his wing. As Kermit and Matt's relationship turns romantic, Kermit learns that Matt's happy-go-lucky vibe is all a facade. Kermit explores his sexuality as his thoughts on religion change and he and his parents find ways to deal with grief. The pressure all becomes too much when Matt puts himself in serious danger--Kermit must find a way to care not only for himself but to help the rest of the group as well.

The Minus-One Club is broken into short, first-person chapters that alternate between present day, the past and Kermit's dreams. Magoon uses Kermit's nights to create fantastical, other-worldly settings and experiences where the teen can connect with his sister, work through his feelings of grief and consider his sexuality. Although the book is a quick and accessible read, it covers heavy topics readers may find emotionally demanding. Magoon thoughtfully includes themes relating to depression, suicide, identity and religious expression as she compassionately builds Kermit's complicated, sensitive inner life and depicts the various ways people might respond to the loss of a loved one. --Natasha Harris, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: In award-winning author Kekla Magoon's superbly written coming-of-age novel, a teenager tries to navigate life after the death of his sister.

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