Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Little Brown and Company: Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

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

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

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


Jason Reynolds Closes Tenure as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature 

Yesterday, Jason Reynolds closed his tenure as the 2020-2022 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by celebrating his GRAB THE MIC: Tell Your Story platform. The Library of Congress livestreamed the event (available on YouTube), during which local area student ambassadors interviewed Reynolds and then he spoke about his term, which launched just as the Covid pandemic hit. 

Before the event, in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition Tuesday, Reynolds looked back on his time as ambassador and the position's mandate: to be the ambassador for reading and writing for young people in the U.S. "The way that I decided to interpret that, though, is: How could I convince young people who may not like to read that they have a story of their own, and that their story is as important as everything that their teachers and parents are trying to get them to read," he said.

Reynolds visited some 16,000 students at 47 schools across 25 states, many of which were in rural and underserved communities, and he wants whoever succeeds him in the role to see it as a job, not just an award. "Stories happen to be the most human thing we have to offer, right?" he noted. "Which means that the work that we're doing in storytelling is actually human work. And I just want to make sure the next person understands that as they take on the task.... 

"Whoever takes on this road next, all I want them to do is make sure that they understand that this is not an award. This is a job. It's a real responsibility, which means that they have to throw themselves at it with all the fervor and love in their being to make sure that the young people in this country know that we care not just about whether or not they read or write, but that we care about them."

"Jason Reynolds' tenure as National Ambassador has been nothing short of magic," said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. "For three years, Jason toured the country, empowering students to believe in their own stories. I am deeply grateful for his profound and rare ability to connect, always buoying us in creative, empathic ways."

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Ajay Roy Named Macmillan COO

Ajay Roy will join Macmillan Publishers as chief operating officer, effective December 19, reporting to incoming CEO Jon Yaged. For nearly 20 years, Roy has led teams with a focus on operational, customer and technology strategy, in addition to business consulting roles.

Most recently, he was the COO of PARTS iD, where he built the company's B2B business, expanded B2C offerings, and managed logistics, operations and partnerships on a global scale, Macmillan noted. Prior to that he held senior operations roles with Moda Operandi and Wayfair, where he spearheaded technology and process advancements while working closely with board members and executive committees. In addition, he held consulting roles with Deloitte and i2 Technologies.

"Ajay's deep experience and his passion for working with teams and developing people, along with his inherent curiosity, make him a perfect choice to be our next COO," said Yaged.

Book Haven Books Aims for Physical Space After Online Debut

Tara Torres

Book Haven Books, a new and used bookstore with the mission of amplifying "diverse stories and authors from marginalized communities," is aiming for a bricks-and-mortar store after debuting as an online bookstore earlier this year.

Per the Hudson Reporter, owner Tara Torres launched the online store in January 2022 with an initial inventory consisting mainly of used adult fiction. Over the past year, as she's grown the store, held pop-up appearances in Union City, N.J., and connected with more of the community, she's added new titles for all ages.

Torres noted that even as a life-long reader, she did not "read a book where I saw myself represented on the page until I was in my 30s." When she started buying books for her children she began to realize just how stark the gap in representation was, and it was Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner that gave her the push to start selling books on her own.

Eventually Torres hopes to open a bricks-and-mortar store "where we can build a community connected by books, culture and shared ideas."

International Update: Publisher Dispatch from Ukraine; New Australian Publishers Association President

Kateryna Nosko

"Book publishing in Ukraine continues to exist against all odds. Even despite the fact that after the Russian shelling of critical infrastructures in Ukraine, there was no electricity, water or communication throughout the country for almost three days, publishers continue to announce new releases, and readers continue to buy books," Kateryna Nosko, publisher at IST Publishing, wrote in a new dispatch (translated by Iryna Kurganska) for the Bookseller, headlined "A Book Is Hope."

"For example, our small bookstore in Kyiv is part of The Naked Room space, which is a bar and contemporary art gallery," she continued. "So when the water supply was cut off and there was a need to save electricity, the bar and gallery space temporarily could not fully function. Only our book corner remained open. And it was then, after another air raid siren went off, that people continued to visit us. That evening we sold more books than usual. And afterwards, customers wrote to us that although they had to spend the evening without electricity, they were happy to read with flashlights. Books remain a reliable partner in times of loneliness, Covid-19, blackout and war."

Roman Malynovskyi, publisher and editor-in-chief of Babylon Library, one of the progressive small publishing houses of Ukraine, spoke with Nosko about the complexities and importance of books now: "People have been buying books on our website because it gives faith. To buy a book means to read it someday. This indicates that there will be calm times."

Nosko wrote: "Despite the fact that the book prices have had to be increased, the dynamics of sales of new titles from the publishing house over the past eight months has increased. One of the reasons may be that in general Ukrainian publishers produce fewer books, i.e., there is a certain shortage of new titles. It can also be assumed that the success of some novels may be due to their themes and the manner of narration."

As an example, Malynovskyi cited Kurt Vonnegut, "whom we published, is 'consumed' well among readers; he calms them down with his text, because he calmly perceives the apocalypse." 

"Summing everything up, we can define the main challenge of the publishing sphere--to withstand," Nosko observed. "Not all publishing houses will survive this war. Often, teams or key employees find themselves in such living conditions that everything stops. Now we need to get to the point where we can plan again. Until then, we will row to the shore, which is not yet visible.... Every book bought and read is our answer to those who want to deprive us of this possibility. Every book published today is a slap in the face to the Russians who came to 'solve the Ukrainian question.' "


Julie Burland

Penguin Random House ANZ CEO Julie Burland is the new president of the Australian Publishers Association, Books+Publishing reported. She succeeds Ultimo Press managing director James Kellow, who recently announced his move to the U.K. to set up the publisher's team there.

Kellow called Burland "an outstanding leader, and I'm confident that she'll help the industry create a positive future. I took on this job knowing that there were great people involved, and that the work mattered to the present and future of publishing in this country. Knowing that, it shouldn't have been such a surprise that I've enjoyed it as much as I have!'

Burland added: "James has been an energetic and effective president who has made a huge contribution to growing and developing Australian publishing. I am honored to be taking on the role and looking forward to continuing to build on the foundation James and the board have created."


In the heart of Brazil's Amazon rain forest, Banca do Largo bookshop in Manaus is "easy to walk past without noticing. But through its green glass doors lies the world's largest collection of Amazonian literature: a treasure chest of forgotten cultures and ignored histories," the Guardian reported. 

"It was always my dream to have a bookstore," said owner Joaquim Melo. "I've spent my life searching for these treasures.... The books I sell here show what the Amazon actually is. But it's hard to find Amazonian literature outside the Amazon.... I've been here for 18 years and I've been doing what I can to promote Amazonian culture. We just need to let these books speak for themselves."

Melo has curated a collection of more than 3,000 books and his bookshop "serves as a refuge for Amazonian writers and activists alike, pushing to protect the region from exploitation. By promoting local literature, particularly works by Indigenous writers, Melo believes he can help spread new ideas about societal organization and the environment that are different from the capitalistic frameworks prevalent in the west," the Guardian wrote. --Robert Gray


Image of the Day: Talking About Basketball

Letters Bookshop in Durham, N.C, hosted Duke University Press authors Thomas Beller (Lost in the Game: A Book About Basketball) and Alexander Wolff (the 20th-anniversary edition of Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure), who read from their books and answered questions from the crowd. Pictured: (l.-r.) Beller; Dean Smith, director of Duke University Press; Wolff.

Bookseller Moment: Old Town Books

Old Town Books, Alexandria, Va, shared a photo on Facebook of the shop's festive storefront at night, noting:  

"Cozy Town Books. 
Holly jolly bookshop. 
We wish you a merry book-mas. 
Seasons readings.
Ho ho hold up I need to add that book to my TBR. 
Jingle books rock. 
(Sorry sorry sorry but it's just too cuteeee!)"

Cool Idea of the Day: '12 Days of Bookmas Blind Date Stack'

"Our 12 Days of Bookmas blind date stack has been way more popular than we expected!" Bridgeside Books, Waterbury, Vt., noted on Facebook yesterday. "So, we had to wrap several more, but now there are just 2 left and once those are gone, you'll have to wait until next year. Both are assorted fiction--a few historical fiction, a few thrillers, a few contemporary fiction, all around a fun mix! ***UPDATE: now down to ONE!"

Insight Editions to Be Repped to Indies, Educational Wholesalers by National Book Travelers

Effective January 1, Insight Editions will be represented to independent bookstores and the educational wholesale channel in the U.S. exclusively by National Book Travelers. Simon & Schuster Distribution Services will continue to represent Insight Editions to specialty retailers and national accounts.

Insight Editions imprints include Weldon Owen, Mandala Publishing, Earth AwareEditions, and Insights, a gift and stationery list featuring both original art and licensed properties. Recent bestsellers include Gilmore Girls: The Official Cookbook, Big Panda and Tiny Dragon, The Birth of Rock & Roll: 70 Years of Sun Records, and The Ultimate Reading Challenge, an advent calendar-style portfolio filled with prizes for avid readers.

Insight Editions executive v-p, sales & marketing Chris Bauerle said, "Independent bookstores have been so supportive of our line over the years, and we are both passionate about and excited to significantly scale our support of these vital stores and their cherished booksellers. As a sign of that commitment, I am so excited for our independent publishing house to partner with the best team of independent indie sales reps in the business."

Insight Editions publisher and founder Raoul Goff added, "Insight Editions was founded to connect people with their passions through books, which perfectly aligns us with the mission of indie booksellers. We have titles for almost every reader, from pop culture fans to seekers of wisdom and wellness, to home cooks and crafters."

National Book Travelers owner Eric Heideman said, "National Book Travelers is excited to partner with Insight Editions, a publisher that understands the impact quality books have on readers and the planet. Putting books that push the boundaries of creativity, design, and production into the hands of booksellers and customers, young and old, is a privilege and we are honored to be a part of the Insight Editions family."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michelle Obama on the Kelly Clarkson Show

Fresh Air: an archive interview with the late Octavia Butler, author of Kindred, the basis of a new FX series now streaming on Hulu.

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

Kelly Clarkson Show: Michelle Obama, author of The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times (Crown, $32.50, 9780593237465).

TV: Bellies

Element Pictures, the Irish production company behind the hit adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel Normal People, "has landed another buzzy coming-of-age novel from a fast-rising young author," according to the Hollywood Reporter. "Following what has been described as a hotly-contested auction, the production company--in which Fremantle took a majority stake earlier in the year--has acquired the film and TV rights to Nicola Dinan's debut novel Bellies ahead of its publication in the U.S. and U.K. next summer."

Element, which also produced the adaptations of Rooney's Conversations with Friends and Nancy Harris's The Dry, is working with Dinan to turn the novel into an eight-part series. Doubleday is releasing Bellies in the U.K. in July 2023, followed by Hanover Square Press in the U.S. in August.

"We were immediately absorbed and transported by the love story between Tom and Ming--and by Nicola's writing, which is in equal parts hilarious and heart-breaking," said Element Pictures' Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe and Chelsea Morgan Hoffmann, who will executive produce alongside Dinan. "We think the world is hungry for a love story like theirs--that authentically allows for the space and complexity of their changing dynamic, both as Ming transitions but also as the two of them grow into adulthood--while still honoring the excitement and intensity of first love. We are delighted to bring their story to the screen and couldn't be happier that Nicola is adapting herself."

Dinan added: "People have told me that Bellies has given them a new perspective. I think that's really special and reminds me that fiction can enlighten in ways that hard facts often can't. At its heart, Bellies isn't about identity. Rather, it's about two young people struggling to find their place in the world, all while learning how to care for each other and those around them. I'm so happy to be working with Element, and to have the opportunity to continue to explore these characters and share them with the world onscreen."

Books & Authors

Awards: Petrona Scandinavian Crime Novel Winner 

Maria Adolfsson won the 2022 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year for Fatal Isles, translated from the Swedish by Agnes Broomé. Adolfsson will receive a trophy, and both author and translator get a cash prize.

The judges said: "This captivating winning novel is the first in a proposed trilogy featuring the beautifully flawed protagonist Detective Inspector Karen Eiken Hornby, whose take on life and work make for a strong down-to-earth and modern heroine in the relicts of a man’s world. Set in the fictional yet completely credible location of Doggerland, this three-islands archipelago in the North Sea, reflects Scandinavian, North European and British heritages. Doggerland is shaped and influenced by its geographical position; the atmospheric setting, akin to the wind- and history-swept Faroe and Shetland Islands, and Nordic climes, enhances the suspenseful and intriguing plot of a police procedural that combines detailed observations and thoughts on the human condition. A brutal murder sets in motion an investigation into layers of hidden secrets and of societal attitudes, and the interaction between the superbly portrayed characters creates a thrilling tension and believable environment."

Adolfsson commented: "For me it is especially exciting that the British readers enjoy exploring Doggerland together with me. I’ve always been interested in what unites people in Scandinavia and the British Isles, how we are culturally linked, and what sets us apart. To me, Doggerland is--or at least might have been--the link between us. Or to quote Herman Melville: 'It’s not down on any map; true places never are.' "

Reading with... Sam Lipsyte

photo: Ceridwen Morris

Sam Lipsyte is the author of the story collections Venus Drive and The Fun Parts as well as the novels Hark, The Ask, The Subject Steve and Home Land. His fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Harper's and Best American Short Stories, among other places. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and the Believer Book Award, Lipsyte lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University. His fifth novel, No One Left to Come Looking for You (Simon & Schuster), is a darkly comic mystery set in New York City's music scene of the early 1990s. 

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Hey, here's a wild, hilarious detective novel full of shady weirdos, drugs, noise rock, art, sex, celebrities and a sincere appreciation of Hall & Oates!

On your nightstand now: 

My glasses, some tissues, a stapler (why?), some masks, a Black Diamond headlamp (I actually use it to read if my wife is asleep), Self Care by Leigh Stein, The 12th Commandment by Daniel Torday, Golden Age by Wang Xiaobo, The Distance by Ivan Vladislavic and Swann's Way by Marcel Proust (the Lydia Davis translation).

Favorite book when you were a child:

Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley. Benchley was the son of famed Algonquin circle writer Robert Benchley and the father of Jaws author Peter Benchley. But he's my favorite Benchley for this gripping story of a boy named Sam who has to fight the Redcoats with his father at Lexington and Concord. His best friend John gets wounded, and my best friend at the time was named John, and so the whole thing really thrilled and traumatized me. Also, the illustrations are by the great Arnold Lobel, of Frog and Toad fame. In fact, now that I think of it, it would have been great as Toad the Minuteman. Or Toad the Minutetoad.

Book you've faked reading:

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. I was in a bar years ago. Some guy was going off about what a good movie it was. I told him the book was much better. But I was faking it. 

Book you're an evangelist for:

There are a number of books I'm always pushing on people, books I buy multiple used copies of so I can give some out. These include Airships by Barry Hannah, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, Inner Tube by Hob Broun, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack by Mark Leyner, Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt, Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard, The Collected Stories of Diane Williams and Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus.

Book you've bought for the cover:

When I was 16 or so I bought the Vintage Contemporaries paperback edition of Thomas McGuane's The Bushwhacked Piano. Those were beautiful books in general, and I guess I bought this one for a combination of the title and the very weird illustration of a green Hudson Hornet floating over a desert. I think what sold me was that the cover didn't show a piano. I didn't know anything about McGuane at the time, but he soon became one of my favorite writers, and now an email buddy. Sometimes you can judge not just a book but an entire oeuvre by the cover!

Book you hid from your parents:

Well, they knew I had it, and that's a whole different story, but it was the novelization of Gore Vidal's screenplay for Caligula, the 1979 pornographic extravaganza starring A-list actors like Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud and Helen Mirren produced by the publisher of Penthouse. Unlike the situation with The Hunt for Red October, I really can tell you that the book, though written after the movie, was better. I kept it under my bed, not to hide it from them so much as hide the fact that I kept it under my bed.

Book that changed your life:

The aforementioned Airships. It made me want to write stories that could swerve from weird and hilarious into heart-crushing on a dime. It made me realize that some of the deepest writers are also the funniest.

Favorite line from a book:

"Life is an immobile, locked,
Three-handed struggle between
Your wants, the world's for you, and (worse)
The unbeatable slow machine
That brings what you'll get."
--Philip Larkin

Five books you'll never part with:

If you ask my family, who have to live in our cluttered home, it's more like the 5,000 books I'll never part with. But five of the many I'll never part with include The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel; The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil; Libra by Don DeLillo; Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf; and The Complete Gary Lutz.

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

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. I read it for the first time in my 20s right after my mother died. I vowed not to leave her apartment until I was done. I just sat at her dining room table with her old Modern Library edition of the book and cups of coffee for days. It was a very emotional experience, a life-affirming one. I understood that a work of art, however bleak, was the artist shouting "Yes!" at the void. Or maybe just, "Up yours!"

Book Review

Children's Review: Just Like Grandma

Just Like Grandma by Kim Rogers, illus. by Julie Flett (Heartdrum, $17.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780063049246, January 24, 2023)

Wichita and Affiliated Tribes author Kim Rogers's first picture book, Just Like Grandma, beautifully portrays a supportive, inspiring grandparent-grandchild relationship. Joy-suffused art by Swampy Cree and Red River Métis illustrator Julie Flett (We All Play) accompanies Rogers's accessible free verse.

"Becca watches/ Grandma bead and bead/ buckskin moccasins"; Grandma passes her the needle when she asks to try. The Indigenous child and woman sit on the steps of their gray house and bead until "Grandpa calls them in for corn soup." On the next page, Becca sees Grandma dancing in the yard "like the most beautiful butterfly" and asks to join her. They dance amid a crowd of red and pink butterflies with their hair flying and skirts twirling. When Grandma paints a colorful sunrise, Becca says, "Let me try." Grandma teaches her brushstrokes and "together they paint the most spectacular sunrise/ anyone has ever painted." The refrain "Becca wants to be/ just like Grandma" repeats each time she sees her role model practicing a different skill. Meanwhile, Grandpa supports their adventures by whipping up nourishing meals in the kitchen and at the powwow.

Rogers brilliantly reverses the role model narrative when Grandma spots Becca practicing for basketball tryouts. Now "Grandma wants to be/ just like Becca," and Becca teaches Grandma the plays she's been practicing. After Becca makes the team, she and Grandma are shown laughing over pizza with Grandpa. Back on the porch, Becca looks at a book of drawings that features a Fancy Shawl dancer among a pattern of beaded flowers. The girl happily reflects that she "is just like Grandma./ Beading,/ dancing,/ painting,/ winning." Grandma joins Becca and they sit together covered by one shawl in front of a glowing sun; Rogers completes the circle by telling readers "Grandma knows that/ she is just like Becca."

Rogers affords children their rightful place as both legacy and leaders in this cyclical love letter to family and tradition. The narrative poem mirrors Grandma and Becca, and sings with the sense of comfort and belonging that can come from family. Flett's collage-like pastel, pencil and digital illustrations capture a gorgeous sense of movement as shawl fringe swishes, skirts swirl and Grandma's hair blows in the wind. The characters radiate joy in their activities and companionship. This affirming, sunlit story is equally accessible to families with grandparents as primary or secondary caregivers and celebrates the richness of Indigenous life. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth experience manager, Dayton Metro Library

Shelf Talker: This joyful picture book follows an Indigenous child as she works at emulating her grandmother, only to learn in a heartwarming twist that her grandmother looks up to her, too.

Deeper Understanding

Margaret Thatcher's Beauty Secrets: Highlighting Backlist Reading

Bookstore memoir sections are odd places, filled with stories that usually have little in common. If asked whether I read memoir, I would say no. Call those titles narrative nonfiction--maybe with a big ocean storm and a shipwreck as a hook, or a famous chef and her secret recipes, or a city family who has moved to the country and the hilarious calamities that ensue (ahem)--and they will find an audience. I want to lobby for moving memoir into the sections related to the stories they tell. Memoir in nature lit, or memoir in travel lit, etc., because if asked whether I read memoir, the answer is no, but bring up a specific title or a category and the answer can change fast.

Abigail Thomas, the brilliant author the New York Times called a serial memoirist, is a terrific example. Three Dog Life is probably her most famous title. Thomas's husband suffered a brain injury when he was hit by a car in their New York City neighborhood and she lets us step into a life where tragedy colored everything, but where humor and courage, irony and compassion still held the stage. On one level, it's about an imposed mid-life correction, but it's really about grace and beauty. It's the kind of gorgeous insightful prose that begs rereading. Not too long ago she published What Comes Next and How to Like It, written in small vignettes that together form a glorious whole. This ostensibly focused on her nearly lifelong relationship with her almost lover and best friend Chuck Verrill. Or maybe it's about aging, or a mother-daughter relationship where the daughter has a romantic relationship with her mom's best friend. Abby Thomas begs to be read and savored on a long rainy Sunday afternoon.

Then there's Julia Reed, who Jay McInerney described as "Mississippi's answer to Dorothy Parker, gifted with a biting wit, a fierce intellect, and a generous spirit of hospitality." That just about sums her up--she was one of my dearest friends, so I am biased. Her books include my favorite Ham Biscuits and Hostess Gowns and the unforgettable Queen of the Turtle Derby. She serves up delicious gossip and divine recipes in equal measure. Julia loved the South, and her keen observations and unparalleled vocabulary create a loving and ironic Southern gothic where the final resting place of Tammy Wynette stands toe to toe with Dixie politics and gun violence. Recently Julia's longtime editor, Michael Flamini at Macmillan, published a posthumous collection of her columns called Dispatches from the Golden Age, which include a couple I had not read. In "Fountain of Youth," a fanciful trip to Europe for cosmetic treatments (made famous by a host of international celebrities, including Margaret Thatcher) goes sideways. I'd heard Julia firsthand on the filth and bugs, but here she clinches the story with a line about Thatcher: "The secret of youth lies in being elected prime minister--and staying there." In Julia's obituary, her old pal Jon Meacham said, "If we'd tried to invent a character like Julia, nobody would have believed it." Now let's make sure a whole new generation of readers get to know her too. --Ellen Stimson

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