Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 17, 2023

University of Texas Press: Grief Is a Sneaky Bitch: An Uncensored Guide to Navigating Loss by Lisa Keefauver

Berkley Books: Hair-raising horror to sink your teeth into!

Berkley Books: The Hitchcock Hotel by Stephanie Wrobel

Queen Mab Media: Get Our Brand Toolkit

Ballantine Books: Gather Me: A Memoir in Praise of the Books That Saved Me by Glory Edim

Ace Books: Rewitched by Lucy Jane Wood

Graywolf Press: We're Alone: Essays by Edwidge Danticat

St. Martin's Press: Runaway Train: Or, the Story of My Life So Far by Erin Roberts with Sam Kashner


Bookstore Sales Rise 10.7% in February, Up 13.5% in 2023

In February, bookstore sales rose 10.7%, to $609 million, compared to February 2022, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, bookstore sales in February were 7% higher than in February 2020. For the year to date, bookstore sales rose 13.5%, to $1.6 billion compared to the first two months of 2022.

Total retail sales in February rose 6.1%, to $614.3 billion, compared to February 2022. For the year to date, total retail sales climbed 7%, to 1,249.3 billion, compared to the first two months of 2022.

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."

BINC: Click to Apply to the Macmillan Booksellers Professional Development Scholarships

Grand Opening for Enchanted Books, Quincy, Ill. 

Enchanted Books celebrated its grand opening under new ownership and name on Saturday at 532 Maine Street, Quincy, Ill. Owner Jennifer Tournear had been the general manager of Codex Books, and when previous owner Alex Craig decided to put it up for sale earlier this year, she was immediately interested, Muddy River News reported. 

"My husband and I just sat down, talked to (Craig), and an offer was made and accepted," she said. "I just love having a bookstore that's local and love having somewhere that the community can come to find what they need.... Our grandparents were big readers. My parents are big readers. Keeping this bookstore local and having something for your children and your grandchildren and your teenagers is important to me. I think it's important to other parents and grandparents too."

Tournear told the Herald-Whig: "I grew up loving books, I come from a family that loves books and I have four kids who grew up on every book available. It broke my heart it would have to close and no longer be here."

She reached out to the community and asked what changes they wanted to see, and the biggest request was expanding the children's department. "I felt like it was lacking in specific age groups so I really wanted to elaborate on that all the way to the baby items up to our young adults and teens," Tournear noted. "I just really felt like I wanted to find something for whoever came through that door."

She also made a few changes to the set-up of the building. The children's department is bigger, tables and fixtures were moved and most noticeable is the window painting reading "Enchanted Books," the Herald-Whig wrote. The store features both new and used books, and Tournear noted that she has added a local interest area where local authors are highlighted. 

"A lot of people have wanted children's events, so we're wanting to bring storytime on Saturdays for the kids area, maybe some crafts things like that," said Tournear. "A lot of people had game night ideas where people would bring their own game boards and we'd have stations set up and you could learn different games. I thought that was cool."

For now, however, the drink menu is on hold. The Herald-Whig noted that the Adams County Health Department "is working to get everything switched over to Enchanted Books. She's also looking to consolidate the menu and focus on most popular drinks. It's estimated that the drink menu will be back in a few weeks."

"No matter what it is that you're looking for, I like to think that we have something that we can offer everybody no matter who it is that comes through those doors," Tournear told WGEM. "To keep it local and to support local, I love being down here with the district."

Watkins Publishing: Fall Into Folklore! ARCS Available On Request

Ulysses Press Buys VeloPress

Ulysses Press has acquired VeloPress, a health and fitness book publisher, from Outside Interactive, Inc. Ulysses Press said that the move will add titles like Running Rewired, The Triathlete's Training Bible, and The Feed Zone Cookbook to Ulysses's health and fitness catalog. Ulysses Press will continue to use the VeloPress name as an imprint.

Keith Riegert, publisher of Ulysses Press, said the publisher will "continue to grow the audience for some of the world's best sports training books and fitness experts. Outside has done a phenomenal job of developing these category leading titles and world-class authors; we feel privileged to have the chance to continue VeloPress' legacy into the future."

Ulysses Press, Berkeley, Calif., and Brooklyn, N.Y., began as an adventure travel publisher in 1983, then expanded to publish titles in religion and spirituality and health and fitness. It is now "a data-driven, cutting-edge indie publisher--seeking out new projects on everything from pop culture and cooking to education and true crime."

Obituary Note: Judith Miller 

Author and antiques expert Judith Miller, who co-founded Miller's Antiques Price Guide, wrote more than 100 books on antiques and interiors, and appeared regularly on TV and radio, has died, the Bookseller reported. She was 71. 

Miller began collecting inexpensive antique plates in the late 1960s, "initially to brighten up the walls of her student digs while studying at Edinburgh University," the Bookseller wrote. Her publisher, Mitchell Beazley, noted that as she became increasingly intrigued with the field, she began to explore its history, and in the decades that followed went on to become one of the world's leading experts on not only antiques, but also interior design.

Following the publication in 1979 of the inaugural Miller's Antiques Price Guide, which she co-founded with her first husband, Martin Miller,  she went on to write books published by Mitchell Beazley; Marshall Editions; Ryland, Peters & Small; and Dorling Kindersley in the U.K., and numerous other publishers internationally. Miller also joined the BBC's Antiques Roadshow as an expert in 2007; and co-hosted the BBC series The House Detectives, ITV's Antiques Trail, and Discovery's It's Your Bid. She contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines and lectured extensively. 

Octopus publisher Alison Starling said: "Judith Miller's association with Mitchell Beazley goes back to the 1980s when the Miller's Antiques Price Guide was created from a bustling office in the picturesque Kentish village of Tenterden. I've been lucky enough to work with Judith on and off for the past 30 years and the news of her death is a huge shock. She had such energy and spirit--and always combined her impressively broad-ranging, in-depth knowledge of antiques with a life-long passion to make the world of collecting accessible and unintimidating to all. Judith will be much missed by all those readers and viewers who looked to her for expert and reassuringly friendly advice... and of course here at Octopus."


Image of the Day: Welcome, New Booksellers!

Paz and Associates' Bookstore Training Group presented a three-day workshop, "A Day in the Life: Bookstore Operations" for prospective and current booksellers, at Story & Song Bookstore Bistro, Amelia Island, Fla. Of the 14 attendees, only two were still in the "dreaming" stage; two were from an existing store (Midtown Reader in Tallahassee, Fla.), and everyone else was well on the way to opening. Pictured: (back row. l.-r.) Sierra Salem, Kate Keisling, Megan Kotsko, Breezy Mayo, Laura Cooper, Jenny Hager, Christie Turner, Devon Romo, Kristin Kehl, Christina Duffy, Mary Beth Manion Morell, Samantha NeSmith; (front row) Sergio Lopez, Alma Lopez and trainers Mark Kaufman and Donna Paz Kaufman

Chalkboard: Luminary Books

"Are you sick of winter yet??? We are! Our chalkboard sign is manifesting a beautiful, green spring--let's hope it works and this warmer weather sticks around for good!" Luminary Books, Gardnerville, Nev., posted on Facebook along with sidewalk chalkboard message: " 'There are always sure to be more springs.' --L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea."

Masking Update: Greedy Reads

The Covid-19 pandemic may not be front-page news now, but indie booksellers are still negotiating the persistent uncertainties. Posted on Facebook by Greedy Reads, Baltimore, Md.: "Shop update--as of this week, masks will be optional at both greedy reads locations. We will still have masks available at the door for anyone who wants one--and we encourage you to take and use them. We plan to continue requiring masks for certain, more crowded, events. As always, we thank you for your patience and good cheer as we’ve navigated some very confusing times, alongside all of you."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Questlove on CBS Mornings, Today Show, the View

Good Morning America: Gretchen Rubin, author of Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World (Crown, $28, 9780593442746).

CBS Mornings: Questlove, co-author of The Rhythm of Time (Putnam, $18.99, 9780593354063). He will also appear tomorrow on the View and the Today Show.

The View: Rep. Katie Porter, author of I Swear: Politics Is Messier Than My Minivan (Crown, $28, 9780593443989).

Drew Barrymore Show: Dr. Will Cole, author of Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel (Rodale, $28, 9780593232361).

Dr. Phil: William Darity, co-author of From Here to Equality, Second Edition: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century (The University of North Carolina Press, $20, 9781469671208).

Tamron Hall: Leslie Means, author of So God Made a Mother: Tender, Proud, Strong, Faithful, Known, Beautiful, Worthy, and Unforgettable--Just Like You (Tyndale Momentum, $22.99, 9781496464682).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Brian Hart Hoffman, author of Bake from Scratch: Artisan Recipes for the Home Baker (83 Press, $44.95, 9780983598428).

Movies: Here

Four-time Emmy nominee Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey, Godless) has joined the cast of Here, Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of Richard McGuire's graphic novel from Miramax. Deadline reported that the project "reunites Zemeckis with writer Eric Roth, Tom Hanks and Robin Wright for the first time since their collaboration on Forrest Gump earned six Oscars including Best Picture." Paul Bettany also co-stars. Sony Pictures acquired U.S. rights. Miramax retains international rights.

Books & Authors

Awards: Florida Book Winners


Winners have been announced for the Florida Book Awards, coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries and co-sponsored by the State Library and Archives of Florida, Florida Humanities, Midtown Reader and Word of South. In addition, Shana Smith was named the Gerald Ensley Developing Writer Award recipient. See the winners in 12 categories here.

Nikki Morse, director of the awards, said, "In many respects, the breadth of award-winning books and authors reflects the variety of the state's literary culture. Since the program began, it has been the only state book awards program with a Spanish Language book category. This year also sees the introduction of a new award within the Poetry category, the Gold Medal for Poetry: Chapbooks."

Reading With... Kimberly Olson Fakih

Kimberly Olson Fakih is the author of two works of fiction for children, High on the Hog and Grandpa Putter & Granny Hoe, as well as the lexicon Off the Clock and The Literature of Delight, a guide to funny books for kids. Her latest book is her first adult novel, Little Miseries: This Is Not a Story About My Childhood, published by Delphinium Books. She worked in publishing for many years, as a freelance reviewer at the New York Times and elsewhere, and was later senior children's book review editor at Kirkus Reviews, a position she currently holds at School Library Journal. She is Iowa-born, Minnesota-raised, and a permanent New Yorker.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Growing up in the hapless swinging '70s, a cynical 10-year-old locates cracks in her perfect Midwestern family that led to generations of neglect and abuse.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Favorite as in I loved it so much I stole it was Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt, who is better known for Across Five Aprils. There was an alcoholic, possibly gay uncle; an older woman who was mentally "frail" who these days would be medicated into vivacity; and a child with a learning disability who was also morbidly neglected at home. Covering 10 years in the heroine's life, it offered a rich view of real people when I was aching to know about anyone outside my narrow suburban life.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison, who makes me forget my surroundings and my own skin for pages at a time, until the emotional lives of a character lacerate me back into a very altered present.

Jane Gardam, in her later years, the Old Filth trilogy especially. That someone can both remember childhood in A Few Fair Days and then grasp marriage and all its mean, minced subtleties--I don't know anyone doing it better than she does.

Eleanor Fitzsimons--The Lives and Loves of E. Nesbit. I had a friend late in my life and even later in his, Peter Mayer, who was publishing her so I saw this in manuscript. She has a fierce understanding of men and women and their intellectual and emotional dynamics that makes me wish she could drop one book a year, at a minimum.

Edith Wharton, who turned every restriction forced on her by her station in life--as exalted as that wealthy, privileged station was--into a "what if" about other women and imagined herself into my favorite rereads: Hudson River Bracketed, The Reef, Summer.

Henrik Ibsen, and I apologize. He just does not get enough credit for how modern his view and writing were. The Enemy of the People could have been produced by Mark Ruffalo and starred Erin Brockovich.

Book you've faked reading:

I was going to say Middlemarch but I always cop to that. I've tried. But it would be The Power Broker by Robert Caro. I've tried, I'm not the cool kid, I dislike reading about people I dislike, no matter their impact on my surroundings.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I've never bought a book for the cover.

Book you hid from your parents: 

Everything you always wanted to know about sex* (*but were afraid to ask). And that's all we'll say about that.

Book that changed your life:

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong, written for young readers. With the subtitle The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance, you would think anyone could make that story exciting, but I have read all the adult titles and what they leave in you don't need. She makes it thrilling. During some rough financial days of no respite, that book was my bible. No food, no sleep, unrelenting cold? I was fine.

Favorite line from a book:

"We might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing." It's David Whyte, in Consolations. It helped me explain why I can never hold a grudge.

Five books you'll never part with:

Hunger by Knut Hamsun, with an introduction by Isaac Bashevis Singer

In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki

Complete Poems of Robert Frost, which is falling apart. I read it aloud to someone who was dying.

Matthew Arnold Prose and Poetry, edited by Archibald L. Bouton. It's a 1927, red clothbound edition, embossed with flaking gold leaf, and I found it in a transfer station in Norwich, Vermont. The previous owner has written in the lightest pencil--it's not faded, but someone who wants to be able to erase the notations. I'm reading it because every mid-century book I read from almost anywhere in the United Kingdom quotes him, and it feels as if I'm finally learning Latin, and will now understand more about the other books.

A first edition of The Melting of Molly by Maria Thompson Daviess because it is more than 100 years old and it is the ultimate weight loss book/makeover book/meet-cute rom-com and I'm rewriting it for modern times.

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

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. A friend recommended it when we were both 23 and she didn't offer anything about it except "Read it." I put the book down at the last page and phoned her to yell at her. It was the first time a book had devastated me, and left me immobile for hours.

Book Review

Review: The Covenant of Water

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Grove, $32 hardcover, 736p., 9780802162175, May 2, 2023)

Abraham Verghese's sprawling second novel, The Covenant of Water, traces the epic story of a family in southern India afflicted by a mysterious condition: at least one person in every generation dies by drowning. Verghese's narrative, spanning seven decades, is both a compassionate family saga and an account of medicine, politics, art, women's rights, and the legacy of British colonialism in India.

Verghese (Cutting for Stone) sets his story in the small community of Saint Thomas Christians in Kerala, centered on the estate of Parambil. The novel opens with a 12-year-old child bride--unnamed, but literate, unusual for her time--coming to Parambil on her wedding day in 1900. Married off to a 40-year-old widower, she becomes the surrogate mother to his two-year-old son, JoJo. Disoriented and lonely at first, she learns (with help from several older women) how to run the household and how to make a life for herself in an unfamiliar place. Over the course of the story, she will transform into Big Ammachi, the matriarch of Parambil and a wise, steady, thoughtful figure in the lives of the other characters. After a tragedy strikes, Big Ammachi discovers a handwritten document outlining the Condition, the water-related affliction that has affected generations of her husband's family. She can neither prevent nor cure this disease, but seeks to understand it, especially as it comes to affect her son, Philipose, and other family members.

In Part Two, Verghese shifts gears to focus on Digby, a young Scotsman who signs up for the Indian Medical Service after the death of his mother. Digby gets a crash course in a new world when he arrives in Madras in 1933, encountering medical conditions he's only read about in books. Digby's destiny will eventually intersect with that of the family at Parambil, via a sanctuary for leprosy patients run by a compassionate Swede named Dr. Rune Orqvist.

The novel travels between Parambil and its close-knit rural community to the city of Madras, several hours away by train, where various characters receive their education (formal and otherwise). Verghese details the rise of the Naxalite Communist movement in the 1960s; explores the realities and aftermath of British colonialism and Partition; forces several characters to confront the abusive realities of the Indian caste system; and straddles the line between science, faith, and mysticism, especially concerning the Condition. A physician and professor, Verghese has an unsparing eye for medical detail, but he always returns the focus to those left behind to mourn their loved ones.

Vast in scope and also surprisingly intimate, Verghese's novel covers most of the 20th century in India, but is ultimately the story of a family--blood and chosen--caring for each other through all of life's challenges and changes. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Abraham Verghese's epic and compassionate second novel explores the multigenerational loves and losses of a South Indian family afflicted with a mysterious drowning condition.

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