Also published on this date: Monday, December 12, 2022: Maximum Shelf: The Perfumist of Paris

Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 12, 2022

Viking: The Bookshop: A History of the American Bookstore by Evan Friss

Pixel+ink: Missy and Mason 1: Missy Wants a Mammoth

Bramble: The Stars Are Dying: Special Edition (Nytefall Trilogy #1) by Chloe C Peñaranda

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout

Charlesbridge Publishing: The Perilous Performance at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos, Illustrated by Doug Salati

Minotaur Books: The Dark Wives: A Vera Stanhope Novel (Vera Stanhope #11) by Ann Cleeves


Holiday Hum: Sales Ramping Up; Supply Chain Manageable

In Salt Lake City, Utah, the King's English Bookshop "brought in a lot more Christmas stuff than we've ever brought in before," reported co-owner Calvin Crosby. Over the past few weeks there's been increased foot traffic and a significant uptick in the use of online sales and contactless pick-up, which the store continues to offer. Crosby noted that during the warm months, contactless pick-up "goes fallow," before increasing as the holidays approach.

On the subject of standout titles, Crosby pointed to the Re-Writing the West initiative that the bookstore launched a few months ago, which emphasizes Indigenous, BIPOC and queer authors in the west. Several of those titles, including Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah, Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine and Boys and Oil by Taylor Brorby, are selling well, especially at a pop-up location the King's English has set up in a local maker's mart. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is also "doing really well" for the store.

Crosby remarked that historically the store has not been known for nonbook items, but the King's English brought in a lot this holiday season. The store has prioritized items made by other small businesses, particularly BIPOC-owned or women-owned. He's been happy to see these items moving, and he pointed to scarves, kimonos and wool ornaments as being very popular with customers.

He added that as far as the supply chain goes, things have been pretty normal, with normal being defined as "taking a couple days longer."


Candice Anderson, co-owner of Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Fla., reported that the holiday shopping season is in full swing, with both year-round customers and snowbirds stopping by. Compared to the past few years, Anderson noted, there has been less early shopping, but the store wrapped its first Christmas gift on Halloween.

So far, sales are up a bit compared to last holiday season, which Anderson said "feels great in light of all the recession talk." Some standout titles include Jennette McCurdy's I'm Glad My Mom Died, Barbara Kingsolver's Demon Copperhead, Patti Smith's A Book of Days and Michelle Obama's The Light We Carry.

Anderson said the store has not faced any significant supply-chain issues and "restocking has been smooth thus far." When it came to preparing for any potential issues, Anderson and store co-owner Alsace Walentine asked all of their sales reps back in the summer and fall what they'd been hearing about supply-chain problems. "They didn't express concern, and so we cautiously placed regular holiday orders."


Robert Sindelar, managing partner at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Seward Park and Ravenna, Wash., reported that the 2021 holiday season "set records" at all three of the store's locations, so it was not a huge surprise that things started a bit slower this November. There were some early shoppers who bought "stacks of books," but there were "just fewer of them" compared to last year. In the past couple of days, however, "it's finally feeling like things are kicking into gear."

"My guess is this will be one of those years where we get absolutely slammed the last 7-10 days," he continued.

Despite being down compared to 2021, the store is still up compared to any other holiday season. As far as standout titles go, Sindelar said there haven't been any "runaways" just yet. The titles on the store's company-wide top 10 list are doing very well, as they do every holiday season, and Sindelar said he's personally very excited that Dr. No by Percival Everett has taken off at all three stores.

He pointed out that so far "supply-chain stuff" doesn't seem too different from last year, and at this point it "feels like we're all acclimated to it." --Alex Mutter

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

In Overland Park, Kan., Green Door Becomes Monarch Books & Gifts

Monarch Books & Gifts is the new name for the Green Door Book Store & Gift Shoppe, the Overland Park, Kan., independent bookstore owned by Christin Young. The adoption of a new name and branding cements the store "as a local indie fixture with a commitment to the Kansas City and surrounding communities," Monarch Books & Gifts said.

The store added that "with cozy seating, a children's area and the smell of coffee in the air, Monarch Books & Gifts is home to a zen atmosphere, shelves and shelves of curated books, and a selection of unique and funny gifts, many sourced from local makers! The landscape of Kansas City's independent bookstore scene is in flux and Monarch Books & Gifts' owner, Christin Young, is hard at work, continuing to provide above and beyond customer service, access to any title her customers can imagine, and unique gifts."

After founding the store in 2019, Young had to move because of zoning problems and then Covid-19 hit. Nonetheless, Young said, "I see it as getting the hard lessons out of the way. I don't see obstacles, but opportunities and for me there is no plan b--I am all in and dedicated to giving the community a much needed indie bookstore! I am passionate about books and I love making people laugh!"

Monarch hosts book clubs and author events and has partnered with local libraries and schools. With many sidelines at the store, "Customers can always find a little something for everyone, making Monarch Books & Gifts a go-to for special gifts for that special someone or to treat yourself."

GLOW: Milkweed Editions: Becoming Little Shell: Returning Home to the Landless Indians of Montana by Chris La Tray

Markus Dohle Departs: End of an Era?

Markus Dohle

We're still digesting Friday's surprise resignation of the most powerful person in publishing, Markus Dohle.

Many media accounts of the change focus on the failed attempt for Penguin Random House to buy Simon & Schuster, a two-year process that incurred a $200 million termination payment to S&S's owner, Paramount Global, major legal fees, and ill will among many authors, agents, competitors and booksellers.

As the Financial Times put it: "Dohle was seen by Bertelsmann as the architect of the tilt at Simon & Schuster, as well as the manager responsible for its execution. Within PRH, while the failure was seen as a trigger for Dohle's departure, one insider said that after 15 years a change of leadership was overdue."

On the other hand, the Associated Press quoted a Bertelsmann spokesperson as saying that Dohle's "ill-fated push to acquire Simon & Schuster was not seen as a 'mistake' by the company and did not lead to pressure for him to resign as CEO."

But Handelsblatt, the German business newspaper, said that Dohle "had to have understood the collapsed deal as a personal defeat." The newspaper added that at Bertelsmann, Dohle was considered a possible successor to Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe. "For Bertelsmann, his departure is a great loss."

Unfortunately for PRH, the trial included some embarrassing moments. The Justice Department quoted internal communications from PRH that seemed to contradict several stated reasons for the purchase--creating a counterbalance to Amazon's dominant position as a retailer and creating synergies and efficiencies. In addition, Dohle argued that he would allow PRH and S&S imprints to compete against one another for authors but admitted he could only promise this, not make it legally binding. He also maintained that publishing success is determined more by "instinct and random luck," not so much a company's size. His estimates of PRH's trade market share in the U.S. at about 20% and falling were considered by many to be inaccurate.

Still, during his 15 years as head of PRH, Dohle accomplished many things:

  • He oversaw the rather smooth merger of Penguin and Random House into the world's largest trade publisher.
  • He expanded PRH's operations, here and abroad, both by organic growth and through acquisitions, perhaps most strikingly in the Spanish-speaking world.
  • In the past decade, he invested some $250 million in PRH's U.S. warehouse and distribution system, making it state of the art. Many other publishers thought printed books might go the way of linotype, with some even outsourcing fulfillment and distribution.
  • In a related move, PRH Publisher Services has continued to expand and become one of the largest distributors in the country.
  • He shepherded PRH through the worst of the pandemic, expanding sales to record levels.
  • Ironically, under his leadership, Random House was the only major publisher that avoided being sued by the Justice Department in 2012 over e-book pricing collusion.

He has also been one of the most optimistic voices in the book world, a sincere, boyish kind of cheerleader for books, authors, the industry, and issues that concern anyone who values books and culture. He has been enthusiastic about PRH's authors and projects. He liked to say the publishing is culture and commerce--"in that order."

We were particularly impressed by his dedication to free speech. He is executive v-p of PEN America, with whom earlier this year he set up the Dohle Book Defense Fund to fight book bannings, to which he committed $500,000 over five years.

The Future

Nihar Malaviya

Nihar Malaviya, currently president and chief operating officer of PRH U.S., becomes interim CEO of PRH on January 1. Bertelsmann has acknowledged that he is in the running to be appointed to the position permanently. A longtime PRH employee, he has been in charge of a range of operations, including technology and data, the supply chain, and through PRH Publisher Services, client services--and has worked closely with Dohle for 15 years. In a letter to staff quoted by the Wall Street Journal and the AP, he wrote, "As a young boy growing up in India, I regularly walked 45 minutes to our local library and read each and every book in the children's section.... I've partnered with many of you across functions and various countries, and I've experienced firsthand the abundance of talent that we have in our community. It is an incredible honor for me to lead the premier publishing company in the world, and I look forward to working with even more of you to build on the energy and dynamic culture we have collectively created."

The Financial Times noted that Madeline McIntosh, CEO of PRH U.S., "is also tipped to be among the other internal candidates."

The doomed PRH/S&S deal hasn't been the only merger and acquisition problem for Bertelsmann lately. In France, after a merger of Bertelsmann's M6 unit with TF1 collapsed for anticompetition reasons, Bertelsmann put M6 on the block until French authorities stressed that for licensing reasons, the sale had to be completed quickly, leading Bertelsmann to withdraw the offer. This fall Bertelsmann's call center business Majorel was unable to buy competitor Sitel.

Despite the failed S&S deal, Bertelsmann will continue to expand. CEO Rabe told Reuters that in the U.S., the company will focus on smaller and mid-sized companies. "We will invest several hundred million euros in the acquisition of book publishers worldwide by 2025 as part of our Boost strategy." The U.S. continues to be important to Bertelsmann: "We are by far the market leader there. Every acquisition, small or large, is very synergistic--on the cost and revenue side."

Of course, there's speculation about who might now bid for S&S, which Paramount Global still wants to spin off. Hachette and HarperCollins have long expressed interest, but the Justice Department might have anticompetitive objections to those combinations, too. So that could spark interest by a company whose main business isn't in the book world or a hedge fund or private equity fund. In the last few years, there have been precedents for the latter option: Elliott's purchase of Barnes & Noble and Waterstones, Jefferson River Capital's purchase of Follett, and several recent owners of Baker & Taylor.

As for Dohle's future, he and Bertelsmann said he will act as a consultant to the company where he has worked since 1994. He had been working under a contract that ends in December 2025. As he wrote to colleagues in Germany, as quoted by Buchreport, "We had a rather cool run in the last 15 years, together seizing many opportunities, publishing many of the best stories and overcoming many challenges and crises: from the financial crisis in 2008 to digital transformation and the biggest merger in the history of publishing--which now is reflected in our company's name here in Munich--to the first worldwide pandemic in a hundred years. And none of these events could keep us from publishing our stories and books with creativity and passion, 'one book at a time.'...

"Of course, I know well that this year was marked by macro-economic and geopolitical challenges and crises. And still, I remain optimistic about the future of the global book publishing as well as the role and position as Penguin Random House in our industry. My belief is based on data and facts! I am sure that you will shape the future of the book and reading for future generations. Publishing books is fundamentally an important societal task. Your daily work in our beloved book world is of central importance--and above and beyond the health of our publishing group!

"Today we should look back on all our accomplishments with pride and look forward with confidence and trust on what may come our way. I thank you all for your support and trust over all the years and decades." --John Mutter

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Four Weekends and a Funeral by Ellie Palmer

Obituary Note: Dominique Lapierre

Dominique Lapierre, "a footloose French journalist who documented beauty, hope and peace amid war, poverty and disease in a long series of popular books, including Is Paris Burning? (1964) and City of Joy (1985)," died December 2, the New York Times reported. He was 91. 

Lapierre had written several well-received travel books when he and the American journalist Larry Collins published Is Paris Burning?, about the liberation of Paris in 1944, which eventually sold 20 million copies in more than a dozen languages. A film version, co-written by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1966, featured an cast that included Jean-Paul Belmondo, Orson Welles, Anthony Perkins and Gert Fröbe.

Lapierre and Collins subsequently co-wrote a number of successful nonfiction books, including ...Or I'll Dress You in Mourning (1968) and O Jerusalem! (1972), as well as Freedom at Midnight (1975), which required Lapierre "to spend long stretches traveling around India. Along the way he met Mother Teresa, and through her began to think of what to do with the material profits from his literary success," the Times wrote. In 1981, he and his second wife, also named Dominique, returned to India as humanitarians. They lived for two years in a slum in Kolkata, in a four-by-six room without running water.

Lapierre wrote frequent dispatches from Kolkata and used his extensive reporting to write City of Joy, another bestseller that was adapted into a 1992 movie. The Times noted that "the Indian government committed billions to bring running water and other services to Kolkata's slums, but the light the book cast on the city also attracted thousands of international tourists to see the poverty for themselves." Lapierre promised to give half his royalties from the book to improve public health in the city's slums, and created a nonprofit to direct his efforts. In addition, within a year of the book's publication he had received more than 40,000 letters from readers seeking to help. 

When he was 17, Lapierre worked his way across the Atlantic aboard a ship, arriving in the United States with $30. He spent several months touring North America, and his notes became the basis for his first book, Un Dollar les Mille Kilomètres (A Dollar for a Thousand Kilometers), published in France in 1950. He and his first wife, Aliette Spitzer, spent their honeymoon circumnavigating the globe, which he chronicled in A Honeymoon Round the World (1953). A 1956 trip through the Soviet Union resulted in Once Upon a Time in the Soviet Union (2005). 

Before becoming a journalist, Lapierre served as a conscript in the French Army. He was stationed at NATO headquarters, where he met Collins, who was serving in the U.S. Army. They reconnected in the early 1960s, in Paris, where they were both reporters, and decided to try writing a book together--Is Paris Burning?

His other books include Beyond Love (1990); A Thousand Suns (1999); and Five Past Midnight in Bhopal (2001). "Despite his often grim subjects, he insisted that his later work was a search for the good in life, even at its darkest moments," the Times noted, adding that he told Vanity Fair in 1991: "I decided I was going to tell positive stories, about those on this earth who do things for others, who, confronted by something terrible, are really models of humanity."


Image of the Day: The Strand at the White House Library

The Strand bookstore, New York, N.Y., shared a special holiday season photo on Instagram, noting: "No surprise here! Strand owner Nancy Bass Wyden and her husband [U.S. Senator, D-Ore.] Ron Wyden posed in the White House Library in front of the WH Literary Christmas Trees!"

Indie Bookstore Thanked with Bookish 'Upcycled' Downtown Bricks

"We are crying with happiness and gratitude! That someone would take the time to do this is amazing! Thank you @k! We love #wakeforest," Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C., posted on Facebook along with a photo of a creative gift crafted for the store by a fan and accompanied by a note that read:

"Your bookstore and the people in it highlight why downtown Wake Forest is a magical place like no other! In this season of giving, I'd like to thank you for all you do to support our community by gifting you these 'upcycled' bricks found throughout downtown Wake Forest of suggested December reads. With gratitude! @k."

IPG's Eurospan Adds Four Publishers

Eurospan, part of Independent Publishers Group, has added four publishers with distribution in the U.S.:

Amba Press, Melbourne, Australia, which publishes educational resources for the home and classroom, seeking to transform how the next generation is raised and educated. Eurospan is the exclusive distributor of Amba titles worldwide, excluding Oceania. (Effective July 1, 2022.)

Spiramus Press, London, England, which provides students and professionals with practical publications, financial and business history and biography. Eurospan is the exclusive distributor of Spiramus Press titles worldwide. (Effective October 1, 2022.)

Gad Publishers and Nord Academic, Copenhagen, Denmark. Gad Publishers offers fiction for all ages, textbooks for health professionals and books for general audiences on politics, history, religion, philosophy, art and related subjects. In December 2021, Gad founded its nonfiction academic publishing house, Nord Academic, which publishes Danish and Nordic research in all subject areas in the national languages and English. Eurospan will be the exclusive distributor of Gad Publishers and Nord Academic worldwide, excluding Denmark. (Effective January 1, 2023.)

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michelle Obama on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Michelle Obama, author of The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times (Crown, $32.50, 9780593237465).

Good Morning America: Barbara Costello, author of Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions (DK, $32, 9780744056921).

Also on GMA: Stacey Abrams, author of Stacey's Remarkable Books (Balzer+Bray, $19.99, 9780063271852).

TV: The Destroyer

Better Call Saul executive producer Gordon Smith is adapting The Destroyer book series, which was first published in 1971, for Sony Pictures Television with Prime Universe Films' Adrian Askarieh, producer of Hitman: Agent 47, set to exec produce, Deadline reported.

Originated by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, the book series, which currently numbers over 150 titles, has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into 40 languages. The TV project will use the library of books to create "an international action/adventure universe filled with humor," Deadline noted. A film adaptation, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, was released in 1985.

Books & Authors

Awards: Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title Winner

RuPedagogies of Realness: Essays on Teaching and Learning with RuPaul's Drag Race, edited by Lindsay Bryde & Tommy Mayberry, won the 2022 Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, claiming 39% of the popular vote and "putting a clean pair of stilettos between it and the second-place finisher, What Nudism Exposes: An Unconventional History of Postwar Canada," the Bookseller reported. While the final margin of victory was 14%, the two titles "were neck-and-neck for most of the Diagram election cycle until a late surge saw the former title pull ahead, perhaps mirroring Danny Beard's shock win over Cheddar Gorgeous in the recently concluded fourth season of RuPaul's Drag Race UK."

Horace Bent, the Bookseller columnist and administrator of the prize, said: "It was one of the most exciting Diagram seasons of recent memory with a battle for number one that was as tight as Violet Chachki's corset or Shangela's tuck. So con-drag-ulations to RuPedagogies of Realness for its well-deserved triumph. And commiserations to What Nudism Exposes; alas, I think voters in the end were put off by its author's clear naked ambition."     

The Diagram was originally conceived in 1978 by Trevor Bounford and Bruce Robertson, co-founders of publishing solutions firm the Diagram Group, to avoid boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair. There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a "passable bottle of claret" is given to the nominator of the winning entry.

Book Review

Review: Independence

Independence by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Morrow, $28.99 hardcover, 288p., 9780063142381, January 17, 2023)

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the explosive effects of the Partition of India and its ramifications for one close-knit family of women in Independence, her stunning 13th novel for adults. Divakaruni (The Last Queen) focuses her story on the Hindu Ganguly family, who have long lived at peace in the quiet village of Ranipur with both Hindu and Muslim neighbors. But when the family--mother Bina, father Nabakumar and their three grown daughters--visit Calcutta in August 1946, their peaceful world is violently upended. Nabakumar, a doctor dedicated to serving indigent patients no matter their religion, is caught in the crossfire of the riots of Direct Action Day, and his death has immediate emotional and practical consequences for his family.

The narrative unfolds in alternating chapters, switching between the perspective of the three Ganguly daughters: eldest daughter Deepa, who falls in love with Raza, a young Muslim man; overlooked middle child Jamini, who swings between duty to her family and resentment at never being chosen; and Priya, the youngest, who burns with ambition to be a doctor like her father. Their choices in the wake of Nabakumar's death, including Deepa's love affair and Priya's determination to attend medical school, are shaped not only by their grief and newfound poverty but by the political turmoil in their nation. In wise, thoughtful prose, Divakaruni shows the chaos that results as India is divided by arbitrary borders, and citizens are forced to choose sides.

As the daughters grapple with their father's death, their neighbor Somnath, a local landowner, and his son Amit--Priya's longtime best friend--do their best to help the family. But they, too, are affected by the looming partition of their homeland, and even they cannot help when Deepa disappears to build a new life with Raza. Although Amit loves Priya, he grows impatient at her plans to attend medical school in the U.S.; her decision will permanently affect their relationship. Jamini, stuck at home tending to their mother, eventually takes matters into her own hands with unexpected consequences.

Divakaruni skillfully moves from her focus mainly on her characters' daily lives to zoom out and comment on widespread violence and unrest in the months before and after Partition. Gandhi and other leaders, both Indian and British, are distant but important figures, as is female leader Sarojini Naidu, an activist and author whom Priya longs to meet. Through Deepa's new life with Raza, Divakaruni also gives insight into the experience of Muslims in India during Partition, and the complications--and possibilities--of reaching across religious lines.

Lyrical and richly detailed, Independence explores the implications of its title not only for a country, but for the young women who must learn to deal with a perilous, exciting new world. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's stunning 13th novel explores the experiences of one Indian family during Partition in 1947.

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