Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 16, 2022

Flatiron Books: The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo

St. Martin's Griffin: One Last Shot by Betty Cayouette

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella

HarperOne: I Finally Bought Some Jordans: Essays by Michael Arceneaux

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes


Bookstore Sales Dip 2.9% in October; Year to Date Up 7.5%

In October, bookstore sales dipped 2.9%, to $636 million, compared to October 2021, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, bookstore sales in October were 0.5% higher than in October 2019. For the year to date, bookstore sales have risen 7.5%, to $7.2 billion compared to the first 10 months of 2021.

Total retail sales in October rose 4.8%, to $668.6 billion, compared to October 2021. For the year to date, total retail sales have climbed 9.9%, to $6,679 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."

Peachtree Teen: The Absinthe Underground by Jamie Pacton

Holiday Hum: Season in Full Swing; Inconsistent Supply Chain

Javier Ramirez, co-owner of Exile in Bookville in Chicago, Ill., reported that over the last five days or so the store has seen a "definite upswing in sales." There's been growth in online orders and gift card sales compared to last year, and authors have appeared as guest booksellers on the weekend during the holiday season. Some of the store's sales reps have even been helping out with wrapping gifts, which has made it a "real community effort."

When Ramirez and store co-owner Kristin Gilbert took over the store last year, they had an inventory that was mostly used books. They immediately started converting that used stock to new, but the process took a while. As a result, they consider this year "to be our first official holiday season."

There haven't been any runaway titles just yet, though Ramirez and Gilbert continue to sell 33⅓ titles "like crazy" and have been pairing them with vinyl records. That's been a surprise, Ramirez said, and in general small press and translated works "continue to dominate across the board."

In preparation for the holiday season and any supply-chain delays, they ordered key titles early and took advantage of stock offers from publishers. So far, there have been no significant issues, with Ramirez noting that "it certainly helps that we are centrally located in Illinois. Turnaround times have been very favorable."


At Cellar Door Books in Riverside, Calif., co-owner Linda Sherman-Nurick said she and her team are finally seeing "an upswing in holiday shopping." There was little early shopping this year, and the store's numbers for Small Business Saturday were very low. 

Though the store is "definitely down" from last holiday season, things have started to pick up in the past week. Asked about  standout titles, Sherman-Nurick said Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, Babel by R.F. Kuang, All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner have all been "doing really well." And so far, the store has not had trouble getting books this year.


Lexi Beach, owner of Astoria Bookshop in Queens, N.Y., reported that holiday shopping is now "fully underway." So far, sales have been down compared to last holiday season, but 2021 was the store's "standout best-year-ever by a huge margin." However, this year's numbers have been tracking higher than 2019, which Beach called a more "normal" benchmark for comparison, and she is "happy enough."

Beach noted that she's called Bob Dylan's Philosophy of Modern Song the "gift book of the year," and its sales have not disappointed, but she doesn't get the sense that it's "the book for the world at large." There doesn't seem to be that "ungettable, everyone-has-to-have-it book this year," although there are titles that are moving very well, including The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin, I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy, An Immense World by Ed Yong, Trust by Hernan Diaz and Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree.

Beach has had trouble getting a number of those popular titles back in stock, and in general said this year the supply chain is "the worst it's ever been." There have been "tons of damages pretty much across the board," and shipments have been delayed for reasons ranging from warehouses running behind to orders "going 'bloop' in a system somewhere." (Beach said she has had a carton of Smitten Kitchen in process for about 10 days but "nobody can tell me how soon it will ship.")

Earlier this week she stopped promising any delivery dates to customers, even for books she knows are in stock. Given how messy things have been and how many times she's "had to reorder the same book because it keeps arriving damaged," she doesn't want to give anyone a guarantee. While the choice is losing the store sales, it is saving Beach headaches "when things just don't show up by 12/23." UPS Saturday deliveries have been inconsistent, and she said she has no idea whether she'll be scrambling to receive 15 boxes on Christmas Eve or if her last deliveries will come next Friday. --Alex Mutter

HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo

Eleanor's Bookshop, Tulsa, Okla., to Close

Eleanor's Bookshop, a children's bookstore in Tulsa, Okla., that opened in 2019, will close at the end of the year, News9 reported.

Co-owner Kelsey McAfee said a number of factors contributed to the decision to close, including staffing issues, the struggles of working through the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing construction around the bookstore, which has made a difference in foot traffic and sales. The plan, she continued, is to clear out inventory the rest of the month before closing permanently on December 31.

McAfee, a full-time teacher, told News9 she'll miss helping families find the perfect book, but she looks forward to having more time with her own.

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

University of Findlay Partnering with B&N College

Effective January 2023, Barnes & Noble College will manage in-store and online operations for the University of Findlay's Ruscilli Bookstore in Findlay, Ohio, WTVG reported.

Prior to the B&N College partnership, the Ruscilli Bookstore was independently run. University President Katherine Fell said the partnership will "expand our reach to more students, alumni, parents and UF friends," and the bookstore's name will remain the same.

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

Obituary Note: Wolf Erlbruch

German illustrator Wolf Erlbruch, best known for his illustrations in The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business (by Werner Holzwarth), died December 11. He was 74. The Bookseller reported that the book "was the starting point of Erlbruch's career as a book illustrator in 1989. The U.K. edition was published by Pavilion Books in 1994, which became part of Farshore last year. It has sold over three million copies to date according to the publisher."

Melissa Fairley, publishing director at Farshore, called the work "a modern classic that has delighted children and adults for years. Wolf Erlbruch's witty illustrations manage that rare feat of balancing charm with cheekiness. Wolf's eye for the ridiculous is second to none and though he is no longer with us, his funny and furious little mole will ensure his legacy lives on."

The many honors Erlbruch received for his work included the 2006 Hans Christian Andersen Award and the 2014 E.O. Plauen Prize. In 2017, the Swedish Cultural Council presented him with the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which paid tribute this week on Twitter: "Wolf Erlbruch's compelling and innovative visual language will continue to inspire his colleagues and echo in the work of contemporary illustrators around the world."

The International Board on Books for Young People tweeted: "What a loss for children's literature everywhere. IBBY's thoughts are with Erlbruch's loved ones." Gecko Press noted: " 'You've come to fetch me?'/ Oh, I've been close by all your life--just in case.' We are very sad to hear of the death of Wolf Erlbruch this week. Duck, Death and the Tulip is a much-loved book that we are proud to have published in English. It is wise, compassionate and brave."


Hakim's Bookstore, Philadelphia, Pa., to Receive State Historical Marker

Hakim's Bookstore, a Black-owned independent bookstore in West Philadelphia that dates back to the late 1950s, is one of 11 locations in the city that were recently approved to receive a Pennsylvania state historical marker, the Philly Voice reported.

Founded by scholar, author, lecturer and publisher Dawud Hakim, the bookstore became "a cultural and political hub for Black activists in the city," and during the civil rights movement was an "important center for organization." It is located at 210 S 52nd St.

Holiday Season Bookseller Moment: lala books

Lala books, Lowell, Mass., shared a photo on Instagram of carolers singing outside the bookshop, noting: "Anyone else suddenly realize how few days stand between us and holidays? No worries, our shelves are packed with great titles, we've still got puzzles & games & stocking stuffers, and Tonatiuh Fashion will be in the store on Saturday 12/17."

Bookseller Cat: Frank at Next Page Books

Posted by Next Page Books, Cedar Rapids, Iowa: "Frank's wish list is short this year:

1) treats
2) climbing tower
3) bird videos

He's easy to shop for. But I'm not waiting to the last minute to finish my holiday shopping. Good advice if you want to find everything on your loved ones' wish lists. Let us know if we can help."

Personnel Changes at Catapult Book Group

Alyson Forbes has been named publisher for the Catapult Book Group.

Media and Movies

Movies: Tracy Flick Can't Win

Paramount Pictures will adapt Tracy Flick Can't Win, a new film for Paramount+ based on Tom Perrotta's latest novel. The project is a sequel to the 1999 film Election, an adaptation of Perrota's 1998 novel. Reese Witherspoon reprises her starring role as Tracy Flick, with Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska) returning to direct and co-write (with Jim Taylor) the screenplay. 

Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter are producing for Hello Sunshine, alongside Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa of Bona Fide Productions. Perrotta is executive producing. Tracy Flick Can't Win was published by Scribner earlier this year.

TV: The Other Black Girl

Garcelle Beauvais (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Spider-Man: Homecoming) is joining the cast of The Other Black Girl, the Hulu Original from Onyx based on the 2021 novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris, Deadline reported. She joins previously announced series regulars Sinclair Daniel, Ashleigh Murray, Brittany Adebumola, Hunter Parrish, Bellamy Young and Eric McCormack. 

Hulu announced the straight-to-series order in August for The Other Black Girl. Executive producers are Rashida Jones, Temple Hill (Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey), Adam Fishbach, Harris, Jordan Reddout and Gus Hickey.

Books & Authors

Awards: Aussie Prime Minister's Literary Winners 

Winners were announced for the 2022 Prime Minister's Literary Awards, which recognize "individual excellence and the contribution Australian authors make to the nation's cultural and intellectual life each year." The awards are presented in six categories, with a total prize pool of A$600,000 (about US$409,405). This year's winning titles are:

Fiction: Red Heaven by Nicolas Rothwell
Poetry: Human Looking by Andy Jackson
Nonfiction: Rogue Forces: An Explosive Insiders' Account of Australian SAS War Crimes in Afghanistan by Mark Willacy
Australian history: Semut: The Untold Story of a Secret Australian Operation in WWII Borneo by Christine Helliwell
Children's literature: Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark, illustrated by Briony Stewart
YA literature: The Gaps by Leanne Hall

Reading with... Stephen Spotswood

photo: Daniel Corey

Stephen Spotswood is a playwright, journalist and educator. As a journalist, he has spent much of the last 20 years writing about the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the struggles of wounded veterans. He is the creator of the Pentecost and Parker Mystery series, the third installment of which, Secrets Typed in Blood (Doubleday), finds the detectives hot on the trail of a serial killer whose murders are stranger than fiction.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A hardboiled, queer, serial-killer whodunit set in 1947 New York City, featuring the world's most brilliant detective and her circus-trained right-hand woman.

On your nightstand now:

Fairy Tale by Stephen King. I've been reading his books since I was old enough to lift them. After mysteries, he's my number one comfort food. That I find horror comforting probably says a lot about how I grew up. Exactly what, I don't dare guess.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I don't know if I had a single fave, but I worked my way through the entire Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series too many times to count.

Your top five authors:

My answer would never be the same minute-to-minute. So, here's five authors I've read this year that I can't wait to get more of: Jane Pek (The Verifiers); Rosalie Knecht (Vera Kelly Lost and Found); Mick Herron (Slow Horses); Gu Byeong-mo (The Old Woman with the Knife); Attica Locke (Heaven, My Home).

Book you've faked reading:

As a child, much of the Bible. At least the boring bits.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. A queer, necromantic space opera that's also a locked-room murder mystery. Just finished the third in the series and, good lord, does she know how to write some beautiful, bloody gut punches.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Caitlín Kiernan's Threshold (the first edition). When I look at it now, it is not a particularly striking cover. But something about it made me pick it up and buy it, knowing nothing about it or the author. This started a 20-year love affair with Kiernan's lush mix of Southern gothic and cosmic horror.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents were very religious, but they were also big readers. So, as long as the cover wasn't objectionable (translation: sexy), I was free to read anything I wanted. But things like the Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook (second edition) had to be tucked away or risk getting tossed. That fourth season of Stranger Things wasn't joking.

Book that changed your life:

Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout. If I hadn't come across it while I was cleaning and randomly decided to reread it, I would never have arrived at the idea for the Pentecost and Parker series.

Favorite line from a book:

"Is Death important? No. Everything that happens before Death is what counts." --Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked this Way Comes

Five books you'll never part with:

Death Is a Lonely Business by Ray Bradbury (a signed copy!).

Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, edited by Miguel Algarin and Bob Holman.

Dalva by Jim Harrison.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (the abridged audiobook and, yes, I hear what you're saying about abridged, but this version is narrated by Bryson and his voice is just wonderful).

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie (I'm very fond of Poirot, but I'd throw hands for Miss Marple).

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

Tana French's The Likeness. Really, any of her books will do, because who doesn't like coming into a world-class mystery from scratch? But I think the first time reading this one--when you're as lost and entranced as the protagonist--is particularly special.

Books at the top of your TBR stack (i.e., next up to sit on your nightstand):

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn. A wicked sharp concept written by a lovely human being.

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries. Twelve authors writing new Miss Marple short stories. I am so stinking jealous.

The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison by Hugh Ryan. Considering the time period and the characters I write about, Ryan is must-read research.

Book Review

Review: Brutes

Brutes by Dizz Tate (Catapult, $27 hardcover, 304p., 9781646221677, February 7, 2023)

Dizz Tate's first novel, Brutes, is set in Falls Landing, Fla., a small town formed of theme parks, mall food courts, gated communities and swampland. At its center is the mystery of a missing teenage girl, and the group of younger girls who adored her: the narrative voice is the unusual first-person plural "we," which perfectly suits a girlhood of conformity and togetherness. The 13-year-old narrators yearn for individual recognition but also fear separation. Their collective voice slips into the singular only when the girls speak from their adult perspectives, looking back. This narrative "we" contributes greatly to the haunting atmosphere of a story about loss, secrets and the costs of growing up.

"Where is she?" the girls imagine Sammy's parents asking the morning after her disappearance, and this question will echo. They worshipped, followed and watched Sammy on the nights when she climbed over the wall of her exclusive community to meet her boyfriend, Eddie; they share her love for Eddie and, after she's gone, shift to attach themselves to Sammy's best friend and rival, Mia. "We wanted to be like them, to become ever louder and brighter, but we could feel their futures slipping through our fingers, because we were not stupid." Sammy and Mia had both been affiliated with Star Search, the local talent agency, and everyone in town wants to be selected, to be seen as special, to be given a business card or a plane ticket to L.A. "We squashed our faces against the glass of our own lives. Is this it? we asked. Are we having fun like they have fun? Are we in love like they are in love? We filled up our days following them, watching them, waiting to be invited in." The girls come from the apartment towers of Falls Landing, not the desirable neighborhood behind the white walls that they watch obsessively. Their mothers are harshly portrayed with both love and derision by the daughters they call "brutes" for their childish cruelties.

Brutes offers stark and unlovely characterizations, but with moments of striking beauty. The girls (and their mothers) are grasping, even desperate, but capable of compassion. Tate's Florida is steamy and thickly rank, with blinding sunlight and shadowy depths, not least in the lake that many residents believe houses a monster--maybe the monster that took Sammy, although the human monsters in this community are plenty sinister. This is a dark coming-of-age tale and meditation on childhood and the cusp of adolescence: authentic, often grim, but with glimmers of hope. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A group of 13-year-old girls tries to deal with another teenager's disappearance alongside their own coming-of-age in an unattractive Florida town beset by increasingly adult threats.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: International Indie Bookstores 'Looking Delightfully Festive'

Santa Claus has to log some serious global air miles on Christmas Eve to cover his territory, so it's fortunate that he has so many indie booksellers strategically located to give him a hand when he comes to town, wherever that town may be. Here's a social media sampling of festive indie bookselling spirits internationally as the big day draws near:

Analog Books, Lethbridge, Canada: "We are in full Christmas mode and the bookstore is looking wonderful.... Hugo still hasn't figured out how to get to that tree."

Brome Lake Books, Knowlton, Canada: "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Brome Lake Books."

Librairie Saint Henri Books, Montreal, Canada: "Holiday Food Drive for St-Henri! We've partnered up with @vsevents to make sure everyone in the St-Henri community has food on the table this Holiday season."

Next Chapter, George Town, Cayman Islands: "Are you looking for books, toys, gifts & games to get the family for Christmas? Our openings hours are extended leading up to Christmas, making it more convenient for you to do your holiday shopping!"

Simply Books, Bramhall, England: "What a busy week we've had! Starting with the lovely Alex T Smith creating our Christmas window with us and signing copies of his gorgeous new book THE GRUMPUS."

Storysmith Books, Bristol, England: "Tree's up, books ready, December sunlight tickling the tables: serenity just before we open and let you meet your new favourite read!"

Booka Bookshop, Oswestry, England: "Tim and Louis headed off in the Booka van this morning on a special trip, to deliver our collection of children's books to Oswestry & Borders Food Bank. Thank you so much to all of our customers who donated books, it was so heartwarming to see all the beautiful Christmas hampers being prepared and wonderful to be sharing the magic of books at Christmas."

Anglo American Book, Rome, Italy: "Hello everybody!! we are open for Christmas's holiday on Saturday and Sunday!... we are in via della vite 27 first floor and if the green door is closed... please ring the bell (entry phone) we are inside!!!"

Bridge Bookshop, Port Erin, Isle of Man: "Thanks again to Glynis at Sarah's Florist in Ramsey for our Christmas wreaths. They get so many lovely comments every year, it really has become a Christmas tradition."

Bermuda Bookstore, Hamilton, Bermuda: "Bringing the kids in for the Santa Parade tonight? We are open until 5 on Sundays, so pop by on the way and check out our kids books!"

Farrells Bookshop, Mornington, Australia: "I know we said our last sign created by Emma was our favourite, but I think this one beats it! The Christmas spirit is well and alive here at Farrells."

Quick Brown Fox Bookshop, Grange, Australia: "Are you interested in a Christmas Craft Workshop? Just a reminder that we have a range of Christmas Workshops to offer over the Christmas season for adults and children 10+."

The Little Bookroom, Fitzroy North, Australia: "Our shop is looking delightfully festive at the moment! Pop in for a browse of our incredible range ahead of Christmas."

Wardini Books, Havelock North, New Zealand: "Boom! The Kiwi Christmas Books have been delivered to Birthright Hawke's Bay and there will be some very happy little faces on Christmas Day. Thank you, generous readers!"

At Gloucester Road Books, Bristol, England

The English Bookshop, Stockholm, Sweden: "We have many, many books to get the little ones into the Christmas spirit! New ones and classics, some more serious and some more fun--and of course some gems translated from Swedish.... and the English Bookshop-elves are all in our coziest mode. Welcome in for all your gift-needs."

Librairie Delamain, Paris, France: "Did you see it, for this end of the year we chose the theme of MUSIC to decorate our window display. In the run up to Christmas, we present you our selections of musical gift ideas. 

Poppies, New Plymouth, New Zealand: "Late-night Christmas shopping this Friday!"

Antonia's Bookstore, Trim, Ireland: "We still have deliveries arriving every day up until the 23rd so if there is a particular book you are looking for drop in or place your order on"

At Bert's Books, Swindon, England.

McLeods Booksellers, Rotorua, New Zealand: "We have had so many donations to @kiwichristmasbooks--our sincere thanks to you for your donations, they'll light up the face and hearts of children this Christmas.... Spread the aroha this Christmas."

Faqir Chand Bookstore, Delhi, India: "It's the most wonderful time of the year. The spirit of Christmas is in the 'togetherness,' it's in the thought to which you put into thinking about others, it's a selfless time, where we forgive, take stock of what's important and become 'better' versions of ourselves. You can't help but feel the love." 

Storyteller Bookstore, Kolkata, India: "This anthology captures the distinctive magic of Christmas in India. Edited and with introductions by two of India's finest writers, Jerry Pinto and Madhulika Liddle, it is a splendid collection of essays, images, poems and hymns--both in English and translated from India's other languages--which showcase the variety of Christmas celebrations across the country."

Luddites Books & Wine, Antwerp, Belgium: "It's almost the most wonderful time of the year! To help you out in the quest for the perfect gift, we present to you our snarky gift guide. Catch a sneak peak of our guide here or run to our (online) shop to check out the full guide. You won't regret it! No refunds if you do."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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