Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 19, 2023

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker


Reading Attic Opening in Marietta, Ga., Next Month

Reading Attic, a general-interest, all-ages bookstore, is coming to Marietta, Ga., next month, the Marietta Daily Journal reported.

Store owners Caroline Tillman and Elizabeth Kunetz, a daughter and mother team, are aiming to open the bookstore on Marietta Square on either June 9 or June 10. While the inventory will consist of a wide variety of genres, there will be a particular emphasis on children's books and books by Georgia authors. Kunetz and Tillman plan to host events such as author readings.

The bookstore will reside on the second floor of a building at 21 West Park Square and span around 3,000 square feet. While Reading Attic won't sell food or drink of its own, it will be located above a tea shop called Tiny Bubbles Tea Bar, and customers will be welcome to bring in any food or drink they've purchased elsewhere.

Kunetz told the Journal that Tillman is the "marketing and creative mind behind the store," while she is helping with finances and business logistics. For the time being, Tillman will keep her day job as a project manager at Home Depot, but she hopes to run the bookstore full time before too long. 

The co-owners pointed out that while downtown Marietta has coffee shops, plenty of restaurants, and assorted other retailers, it has not had a bookstore in quite some time. Kunetz remarked: "What we need is something else to do with your time while you're waiting for your restaurant to page you to tell you your table's ready."

A lifelong reader, Tillman has wanted to open a bookstore of her own for a long time. Last summer, she wrote a letter to her mother saying she'd like to open a bookstore with her in Marietta before Kunetz turns 60. She'll be 59 when the bookstore opens next month.

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Queer Haven Books, Columbia, S.C., Launches Crowdfunding Campaign

Baker Rogers, an academic with a background in sociology and social work, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help open Queer Haven Books, an independent, queer bookstore and community space, in Columbia, S.C.

Rogers, who has written several academic articles on queer life in the Southeastern U.S., is looking to raise $50,000 for the bookstore. The money raised will go toward purchasing business licenses and permits, buying initial inventory, promoting the bookstore, and paying the team's salaries. Rogers has a found an ideal spot in Columbia, though the lease is not yet finalized, and they hope to open the bookstore before the end of 2023.

Baker Rogers

Queer Haven Books will carry titles of all genres and for all ages written by queer authors or telling queer stories. Along with books, the shop will sell coffee, baked goods, and an assortment of games, art, and gifts with a queer focus. There will be space to hang out, read, and have a cup of coffee, and event plans include author readings and drag queen story hours.

The bookstore's mission is to provide "a place of safety and refuge for the queer community in the Southern United States," with the Kickstarter page noting that the team defines queer broadly "to include all genders and sexualities that go against established norms, but also politically, as push back against all -phobias and -isms (homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism, racism, ableism, ageism, sexism, etc.), discrimination, and violence in our society."

Born and raised in South Carolina, Rogers first moved to Columbia in 2007, when they were 22. At the time, there was a "small, yet thriving" queer scene in the city; when Rogers returned in 2020, they found that the queer scene had shrunk, and a new space was needed. Since Rogers has never run a bookstore before, they're "working with queer people from a variety of sectors, including business and libraries, to ensure that Queer Haven Books meets the community's needs."

So far, the Kickstarter has raised just over $7,300, from more than 70 backers, with 20 days to go for the campaign.

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

Find the Path Books Coming Soon to Port Orchard, Wash.

Married couple Karena and Jared Fagan are just a few weeks away from bringing a new bookstore called Find the Path Books to downtown Port Orchard, Wash., the Kitsap Daily News reported.

The store's name comes from a spell in Dungeons & Dragons, and along with a wide variety of books, the Fagans will carry tabletop and board games. Their event plans, meanwhile, include book clubs, game nights, and providing space for D&D sessions.

Karena Fagan told the Daily News that they plan to emphasize local authors and diverse authors. For the store's nonbook products, they also intend to highlight locally made items. The store will also carry a small selection of comics and will display the work of local artists.

The Fagans have been married for more than 20 years. Karena Fagan has a background as a bookseller, having worked at indies in Santa Cruz, Calif., and elsewhere, while Jared Fagan served in the military prior to working in tech. They moved to Port Orchard about two years ago, and after falling in love with their new community decided to pursue their shared dream of opening a bookstore.

They plan to make the bookstore a "safe space for everybody" and welcome "book lovers, gamers and artists of all backgrounds."

More Than Words Bookmobile Hitting the Road in Boston, Mass.


More Than Words, a nonprofit bookstore and youth advocacy organization in Boston, Mass., has created a bookmobile that will hit the road this summer, the Boston Globe reported.

The bookmobile, which was built out of a four-wheeler truck and can hold up to 2,000 books in its 130-square-foot interior, will have its grand debut at Roxbury Community Week early next month. The truck has been outfitted with solar panels that power lights, air conditioning, and heating, and More Than Words chief of social enterprise Shaun Newell described the aesthetics as "urban modern."

Newell explained that the nonprofit thought of having a mobile bookstore about eight years ago, and first tried out the idea in 2019 with the use of a prototype built out of a trailer. However, when the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the plans for a mobile bookstore went on the back burner and the organization focused on its bricks-and-mortar store. Those efforts finally resumed in August 2022; Flexetail, a company based in Avon, Mass., designed the mobile store.

"We always wanted to be more flexible," Newell told the Globe. "We always wanted to get out. Books are heavy. We love them, but it takes some weight to get around. We wanted to figure out a way to get the product out in our communities.”

Following the Roxbury debut, More Than Words will take the mobile bookstore to locations throughout the Greater Boston area.

Obituary Note: Amy Silverstein

Amy Silverstein

Amy Silverstein, a celebrated writer whose memoirs "recounted her grueling yet joyous odyssey through a life that required two heart transplants," died May 5, the New York Times reported. She was 59. Silverstein forecast her death in an April 18 Times opinion piece, writing: "Today, I will explain to my healthy transplanted heart why, in what may be a matter of days or weeks at best, she--well, we--will die." 

The details of her life with successive heart transplants were familiar to readers of her many magazine articles, as well as her two books, Sick Girl (2007) and My Glory Was I Had Such Friends (2017).

"Each transplant--the first was in 1988, when she was 24 and a second-year law student at New York University--gave her a new lease on life, as Ms. Silverstein often recounted with deep gratitude. But in no way did her life go back to what it was," the Times wrote. 

After Sick Girl was published, Silverstein received fan letters from other transplant recipients, praising her for her courage in bringing to light the odd mix of joy and misery that can accompany life with a new organ--what she called the "gratitude paradox." She also attracted hate mail as a vocal critic of the health care industry. 

Silverstein's second memoir recounts how her friends rallied to her side as she recovered from a second heart transplant in a California hospital. An adaptation of My Glory Was I Had Such Friends is currently in development as a limited series by Warner Bros. TV and Bad Robot.

Despite her health challenges, Silverstein finished law school after her first transplant, then practiced briefly before leaving the profession to raise a son and, eventually, to write.

In a sense, "none of her human relationships were quite so intimate as the one she had with the approximately eight-ounce bundle of someone else's muscle beating beneath her rib cage," the Times wrote, adding that in her April essay she wrote: "On our daily runs, when my '70s yacht rock playlist propels each stride, this heart from a 13-year-old donor revolts in my body with thumps of Oh puh-lease--and we giggle together, picking up our pace to sprinting."


Image of the Day: The Postcard at Solid State Books

Author Anne Berest (The Postcard) greeted fans at Solid State Books in Washington, D.C., where she discussed her novel with Michael Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Europa Editions, and Sarah Diligenti, director of the Alliance Française.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Vanessa Walters on Good Morning America

Good Morning America: Vanessa Walters, author of The Nigerwife: A Novel (Atria, $27.99, 9781668011089).

Movies: The Thing With Feathers

Benedict Cumberbatch will star in writer and director Dylan Southern's adaptation of Max Porter's 2016 novel Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, Deadline reported. Titled The Thing With Feathers, the film is produced by Andrea Cornwell with SunnyMarch's Adam Ackland and Leah Clarke. The script was developed with Film4, which will executive produce and co-finance. The crow figure featured in the book will be created for the screen in collaboration with the sculptor Nicola Hicks.

"Having been a huge fan of Max Porter's extraordinary book and Enda Walsh's stage adaptation I was skeptical about a film adaptation. But the experience of reading Dylan Southern's adaptation rekindled the cinematic memory of reading this most visceral tale of a family consumed by grief," said Cumberbatch. "Dylan has handled the deftness of Max's kinetic poetry masterfully. It's so well realized both on the page and in the deck and pitch. It holds all the wildly sharp turns of changing tones and colors between the domestic and mythic, between the despair, comedy, and every day of loss. It's a thrilling read, and I couldn't be more excited to be taking Dylan's cinematic vision of it to the big screen."

Southern noted: "This is a genuinely meaningful story--but it's also scary, thrilling and subversive--and it achieves all of the above whilst remaining unsentimental. As a director, adapting this book provides the opportunity to combine striking genre elements with drama in a way that will not only move an audience, but will frighten them and make them laugh too."

Porter praised Southern's sensitivity to the different layers of the original story, noting: "Dylan understands how this story is just as much about domesticity, awkward humor, the silly, fun and strange routines of raising children, as it is about inexplicable rage and pain. In Crow he has created something wild, a cinematic monster unlike anything else."

Books & Authors

Awards: B&N Children's & YA Books

Barnes & Noble named this year's winners of its annual Children's & YA Book Awards. The overall winner was The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels by Beth Lincoln, illustrated by Claire Powell, which also took the Young Reader category. The other category winners were How to Eat a Book by Mrs. & Mr. MacLeod (Picture Books) and A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin (YA).

"This has been a stellar year for children's publishing, breaking all sorts of sales records and marked by blistering creativity. Our booksellers have acclaimed a wonderful selection of books for the book awards and the winners of each category are truly extraordinary. We look forward to expanding nationwide the young audiences captivated and inspired by these books," said B&N CEO James Daunt. "In The Swifts, Beth Lincoln's unparalleled wordsmithing and wit, complemented by Claire Powell's sensational artwork, thrilled our booksellers, as surely it will readers for generations to come."

Reading with... Stephen Buoro

photo: Andrew Kahumbu

Stephen Buoro was born in Nigeria in 1993 and has an M.A. in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, where he received the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship and the Deborah Rogers Foundation Award. He lives in Norwich, U.K. His debut novel, The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa (Bloomsbury), is a tragicomic novel that provides a lens into contemporary African life, the complicity of the West, and the challenges of coming of age in a turbulent world.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

My novel is about a smart and funny 15-year-old Nigerian boy who's obsessed with blondes, Afrofuturism, math, poetry, and who his true father is.

On your nightstand now:

Brutes by Dizz Tate. It's a brilliant coming-of-age story about girlhood, set in Florida. The descriptions, especially at the beginning of the novel, are so acute and tender that I feel as though I've lived in Florida before. Tate's sentential astuteness is outstanding--reminds me of J.M. Coetzee--and it was a privilege to meet her in person in March this year. I can't wait to read her next book.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I didn't have a definite favourite. Some of the books I loved include The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. These books made me more inquisitive about the world. The first one, in particular, drew me toward employing a bifurcated approach to observing/understanding phenomena, i.e., through science and the arts, maths and literature, which is what I sought to do in my novel, Andy Africa.

Your top five authors:

Chinua Achebe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Gabriel García Márquez, and Junot Díaz. What can I say? Apart from the pleasure of reading them, their works are instructive and nourishing.

Book you've faked reading:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding! I tried reading it several times as a teenager but never got beyond 20 pages. It felt so weird reading a book with no women in it, one with a character named Ralph, and another named Piggy. And it seemed to contain too much chitchatting. Thus, the quotation marks were preponderant and felt like winged insects frolicking towards me. Also, as an introverted teenager, the boys felt noisy and crazy to me. Now, as an adult, the concept of the book sounds compelling, and I've since read wonderful commentaries on the book, and I look forward to trying it again.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan. I love this book enormously, and I don't think many readers give it enough credit or recognise its ambition. Although many of the events it describes are brutal, it's an ambitious collection of stories that gives voice to the voiceless, and handles huge philosophical questions with great subtlety. It's a book everyone should read at least once.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I'm not sure I've done this before. But the vintage cover of Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee is harrowing and brilliant and perhaps encouraged me to buy the book. It goes without saying that Coetzee is such a master.

Book you hid from your parents:

A raucous, racy thriller called The Virgin Soldiers by Leslie Thomas. I first read it when I was 14, and it had the wildest sex scenes I'd ever seen in a book. So I hid it beneath a pile of boring books and visited it now and then.

Book that changed your life:

Black Boy by Richard Wright. I greatly loved this book. I read it when I was 13, and it changed the way I saw the world. Suddenly, I became aware of the colour of my skin, and I began to see through the monochromatic narratives of Hollywood and of Western culture. It depressed me, because it seemed to foreshadow the world that I would navigate as an adult: a racialized, unequal, violent world. Also, it bolstered in me the desire to become a writer, just like the narrator.

Favorite line from a book:

"For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it?" --from Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.

This sentence alone is sufficient evidence for why everyone should read literary texts, for they alone, arguably, can capture the essence of our human struggle and supplement the psychosomatic nourishment we need.

Five books you'll never part with:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (the quintessential African classic; arguably the book that flung open the doors for African writers), The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (a powerful and instructive intertextual philosophical text), One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (always a pleasure to read; inimitable; a book that redrew the "rules"), The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola (a bewitching, polyphonic tale), and the Bible (the book that's defined my life; an astonishing literary text).

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

The Promise by Damon Galgut. I read it early last year and I can't wait to revisit it. It's a terrific novel that does innovative things with point of view, subjectivity, and interiority. I strongly relate to its themes of religion, class, race, nationhood--for they characterise my life and constitute the central themes of my debut novel, Andy Africa. I'm sure these themes will resurface in my subsequent writing.

Book you can't wait to read:

I've heard many wonderful things about Lesley Nneka Arimah's short story collection, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, and I can't wait to finally read it. I'm intrigued by its ambition and scope and its generic range, spanning realism, magical realism, and speculative fiction.

Book Review

Review: I Am Homeless if This Is Not My Home

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, $27 hardcover, 208p., 9780307594143, June 20, 2023)

Lorrie Moore's fourth novel, I Am Homeless if This Is Not My Home, is a wry, shape-shifting meditation on how we might continue to commune with the dead.

Set in late October 2016, the novella features an everyman who undertakes, like Dante or an antihero from Greek myth, a couple of odysseys with the dead and dying. Finn has been suspended from his high school history teaching job "for his wanderings away from the curriculum." Given his willingness to entertain conspiracy theories about the moon landing and prominent political assassinations, the disciplinary action is hardly a surprise.

The timing is fortuitous, at least, in that it allows Finn to drive from Tennessee to New York to visit his brother, Max, who has pancreatic cancer and is now confined to a Bronx hospice. Max is too weak to speak much, but he hasn't lost his mental capacity or his quick wit. The brothers trade memories and predictions of future events while the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians plays on TV in the background. "Don't check out of this life thinking Trump's going to be president. Don't go with that hallucination or I will really feel sorry for you," Finn says to Max. "Leave thinking Cleveland will win. Or better yet don't leave at all."

Finn then departs "the bardo of the hospice" and journeys further into death when the news comes that his ex-girlfriend, Lily, who had long suffered from depression, has died by suicide. Moore (See What Can Be Done) typically sticks to realism, so readers may be surprised by the magical turn she takes at this point, as Finn picks up Lily from the cemetery and embarks on a surreal road trip. The couple's banter is delightful, but there's no getting beyond the apparent fact that Finn is conversing with--and making love to--a corpse. Is this really happening, or is it an allegory? ("We are surrounded by death so that we can be taught to accept it," Lily insists to Finn.) And what's with the occasional folksy letters from a woman to her sister in the 1860s?

Both playful and poignant, this story of siblings and mental health slips the bonds of time and mortality. It bears Moore's trademark psychological depth and humor. At the sentence level, the work is never less than a revelation. She takes a risk with the plot, but this novel should appeal to fans of Lincoln in the Bardo. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader, and blogger at Bookish Beck

Shelf Talker: Lorrie Moore's poignant fourth novel blends recent history and magical realism as a high school teacher goes on a journey into the bardo and the underworld to learn how to come to terms with loss.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'People Do Like Tangible Objects'

I don't think of myself as being prone to nostalgia, but I'll admit that when I learned last month Netflix would be shutting down its DVD mail service later this year, I felt a twinge of regret. This seemed odd because I've been a Netflix customer for nearly 25 years, but can't remember the last time one of those signature red envelopes landed in our mailbox. 

I know I'm venturing outside the book trade box this week, but maybe not as far as it seems. After all, the indie bookshop where I once worked had an extensive DVD section in the music department. And it generated plenty of sales before streaming services ultimately bounced DVDs and CDs out of their cozy corner. 

Our DVD customers often trusted video recommendations as much as our book picks, though I may have overplayed my handselling there once or twice. If you had access to the bookstore's sales numbers from the early 2000s, you might discover that my Staff Recommends tag for Into Great Silence--a long, very quiet documentary about a Carthusian monastery in France--sold more than 80 copies during my tenure. Not everyone loved the film, I confess, and they didn't hesitate to tell me so. I could only say mea culpa and recommend something else, which, thankfully, they often bought. Such are the hazards and joys of handselling.

Why the nostalgia about DVDs, since I so easily adapted to the world of video streaming? Perhaps because I've worked for decades in an industry that has had to compete with tech innovations using the most basic yet complex of weapons: a stack of printed paper bound between two covers. I don't have to handsell you on the technological miracle of  the book. 

I know. The book analogy doesn't smoothly transfer over to Netflix's bailing on the DVD business. After all, the case could be made that DVDs deserve their fate, having murdered VHS tapes. But those envelopes. They were a miracle. In the late 1990s I was living in rural Vermont and a steady flow of Netflix movies to my mailbox was revolutionary in its own odd way--new tech delivered by old tech. 

At Yankee Bookshop

Maybe that's it. Sometimes the tech world adapts to the past and something old becomes new again. For example, when independent bookstores began selling vinyl records, I was at the head of the skeptics' line. Who's going to buy these? And, more amazing, who would buy a turntable from a bookseller? Well, as it turned out, a lot of folks would. Many indie booksellers, including the Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, Vt., joined in the celebration of Record Store Day last Saturday with a vinyl sale. Who could have predicted that?

In 2022, vinyl records made up 70% of all physical music sales, outselling CDs for the first time in 35 years, Vermont Public Radio reported. "You hear it time and time again, people do like tangible objects, and they like the feel of vinyl," said Justin Crowther, owner of Burlington Record Plant. "I feel like you get the opportunity for high-resolution artwork. The idea of the vinyl color matching the artwork I think is really special."

"People like tangible objects." How many times have we heard readers rhapsodize about the look, scent and feel of real books? As a book person, I can empathize with perceiving the decline in DVD sales as another kind of loss in an increasingly digitized world. You find your sacred physical objects where you can these days.

In the wake of Netflix's announcement, Richard Lorber, CEO of film distributor Kino Lorber, wrote an IndieWire op-ed in which he observed: "The story of DVDs, and its cousins Blu-rays and 4K UHD Blu-rays, is another in a long line of new technologies that sooner or later meet their obsolescence. But it remains an open question if DVDs will be the new vinyl, cassette tape, or 8-track. I'm betting on vinyl....

"Today, DVDs remain a bright spot for our business, built on a library of over 4,000 highly curated classics and arthouse titles. Our customers who buy them aren't necessarily who you would expect. A surprising number of them are from younger generations, who want to hold onto something real that they love and cherish.... We're seeing those signs of life because in the streaming era, we risk losing something fundamental: pride of ownership. You don't own Netflix. And when you don't own it, it can go away.... The story of your collection is the story of you, embedded in you, and a part of your identity. Many parts of our lives are becoming ever more transactional and ephemeral. So make sure that when you find something beautiful, that touches you, that is perfect, own it."

Perhaps the best way to end is with "a final plea" for survival directed at Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos (via Wired) from one of the victims, a long-serving "in the mail" DVD: "I am a Digital Versatile Disc, a copy of the 1997 post-apocalyptic flop The Postman (8% on Rotten Tomatoes). I am a proud soldier in Netflix's ranks, and I am about to die.... Look, I know this is coming no matter what I say. But before you send us all to rot in a landfill, I implore you to find a DVD player somewhere in a Los Gatos basement and watch me. Costner learned how to deliver mail after an apocalypse; one day, you may need to too."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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