Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 2, 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

News

Red Fern Booksellers Opens in Salina, Kan.

Red Fern Booksellers has opened for business in Salina, Kan., the Salina Journal reported.

Store owner Harley Hamilton and his team welcomed customers for the first time on May 19. Located at 106 S. Santa Fe Ave., the store carries titles for children, teens, and adults spanning a wide range of genres. Red Fern carries an assortment of sidelines and its event plans include author talks, signings, book clubs, and more.

Hamilton, who had a previous career as a pharmacist and consultant, told the Journal that the timing of the soft opening was rather spur of the moment. After a week of "shelving, organizing, putting signs up, entering inventory, and receiving all the orders," he and his booksellers thought "we have enough books, maybe we should just unlock the doors tomorrow." Bookseller Jerzee Mullins posted an announcement to that effect on Facebook.

The next morning, Hamilton and the team found customers lining up outside the store, waiting to get in. Things were "nonstop" Friday and Saturday, and the store has already proved so popular that Hamilton is considering expanding hours in advance of the grand-opening celebration scheduled for June 24.

An avid reader and lover of bookstores, Hamilton wanted a change and had also gotten tired of driving long distances to visit his favorite indie bookstores in other towns. At the same time, Salina's downtown was in the midst of a resurgence. In November 2021, he decided to "go for it" and open an indie bookstore in Salina. He told Shelf Awareness last year: "It seemed like the best time to do it."


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Print Factory Coming to Bellefonte, Pa.

Print Factory bookstore, an "antiracist, feminist, and queer-inclusive artist- and worker-run organization," will open at 130 S. Allegheny St., Bellefonte, Pa. Centre Daily Times reported that its directors have signed a renewable five-year lease for the space and will begin some construction inside the building in June.

"Luckily, it's really cosmetic stuff just to update the building," said Melissa Stitzer, one of the directors. "There's already some great things inside that we hope to keep. It's got a great personality, a great vibe in there." The plan is to open by Small Business Saturday in November, but it's possible the bookshop will launch before then.

Jonathan Eburne, Elena Quiñones, Angie Bowman, and Stitzer "all had the same vision for a bookstore" and knew that Bellefonte was the place to do it. They came together as directors to bring their dream to life, Centre Daily Times wrote.

Quiñones said Print Factory's mission statement focuses heavily on inclusivity and it's important that the space reflects that, from how the bookstore is stocked to what programming is offered and how it's run. 

Stitzer added that if someone walks into the bookstore and says, "I want a book that has a character I can relate to," it is important to provide that "magical place" for them. 

"The focus of the Print Factory is to offer space for intellectual and creative life to the community. For us, it's important that that is happening in Bellefonte, rather than say, State College, where it feels like there are a lot more resources through the university especially, already pulled around some of those efforts," Quiñones observed. 

As a parent of a teenager, Eburne noted that he is aware of the need for places where people can hang out, especially after school. Providing a place where people can gather together in a safe and meaningful way will be an asset to the growing community. 

Print Factory will also feature a variety of programs and workshops for all ages. Eburne said, "When you're making things with other people, whether you're fixing a car, cooking, working in a field or typing on a typewriter with a group of people on other typewriters... you're going to have conversations that are going to evolve out of that. When you work together with other people, things happen in good ways." 

Print Factory is a nonprofit and is currently taking donations through a $50,000 GoFundMe campaign to fund the bookshop's first year of operations. Eburne noted that not having to generate all of their income through sales allows them to uphold their mission by providing programming and materials that are accessible and affordable for people to participate. 


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


APA: 2022 Audiobook Sales Up 10%, to $1.8 Billion

In 2022, audiobook revenue grew 10%, to $1.8 billion, marking the 11th straight year of double-digit growth for audio, according to the Audio Publishers Association's Sales Survey conducted by Harris Interactive.

At the same time, the association's 2023 Consumer Survey, conducted by Edison Research, found that the size of the audiobook listening market has grown in the last year, with the majority of U.S. adults (53%), nearly 140 million Americans, saying they have listened to an audiobook, which is up from 45% the year before.

Highlights from the two surveys:

By category, audiobooks for children had the fastest rate of growth in 2022 (up 41%) but remain a small component of the total market (3%). Similarly, non-English-language titles are expanding rapidly (up 37%) but are still just 4% of the total market.

Fiction (64%) has increased as a proportion of total sales for the second consecutive year. The fastest-growing genres are humor, nonfiction, and romance; fiction and science fiction/fantasy remain the two largest genres overall.

The majority of audiobook listeners are young: 57% are between the ages of 18 and 44. By comparison, 49% of the U.S. population is between 18 and 44.

Racially, audiobook listeners closely match the U.S. population, with 29% of audiobook listeners identifying as either African-American or Hispanic, compared with 27% of the U.S. population.

As people return to pre-pandemic routines, audiobook listeners' usage mirrors that trend: the average number of audiobooks listened to in the last year has returned to the pre-pandemic number of 6.3, down from 6.9 in 2022.

Still, the number of children who listen to audiobooks have remained relatively strong, with 56% of audiobook listeners with children saying that their kids listen to audiobooks. This number, while down from the 61% in 2022, is still significantly higher than the 35% reported in the pre-pandemic study of 2020.


Signs of Life, Lawrence, Kan., Has Closed

Signs of Life in Lawrence, Kan., has closed permanently, the Lawrence Times reported.

After two decades of running the bookstore, owner Clay Belcher decided to retire and is under contract to sell the bookstore's building. Signs of Life had a Christian and spiritual focus, though it also carried classics, literary fiction, history and art books. There was an espresso bar and art gallery as well, and the shop hosted live music and other events. Until the final day of business, products will be 25%-33% off.

"All good things come to an end and this just seemed like a good time to do it," Belcher told the Lawrence Times. "We've had a great run and have enjoyed being on Mass [Massachusetts St.] and being part of the downtown community."

In a message to customers, Belcher called it the "end of an era," adding that "it's been a great 20 years, but now it's time to go."

He opened Signs of Life in 2003.


Obituary Note: Ted Mooney

Ted Mooney, "who opened his first book, in 1981, with a scene of dolphin-human sex, and who proceeded to write three other offbeat, inventive novels at roughly 10-year intervals," died March 25, the New York Times reported. He was 70. An editor at Art in America magazine from 1977 to 2008, he was "known for his steady hand whether working with established art critics or first-time writers. His novels, though, showed a different side, one partial to outlandish yarns that were also literate examinations of a disjointed age."

Easy Travel to Other Planets, which won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and was a best first novel finalist for the 1982 American Book Award (now National Book Award), was followed by novels Traffic and Laughter (1990), Singing into the Piano (1998), and The Same River Twice (2010).  

In a 1990 interview with Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory now in the archives of San Diego State University, Mooney was asked if the characters in his novels ever surprised him. "There is not a single day in which I am not surprised to the point of befuddlement by what they do," he replied. "That's the pleasure. Reacting to the befuddlement, straightening it out, is the responsibility."

Mooney moved to Manhattan in the early 1970s and was hired in 1977 by Art in America, where he eventually became a senior editor. Elizabeth Baker, the editor there at the time, recalled: "Ted was a skilled editor from the outset. He was young, with no track record, but his job application included a photocopy of an article we'd already published, on which he'd red-penciled some constructive editorial changes. The job was his." 

"Over the decades, Ted's literary career never undercut the care and resourcefulness he poured into his editorial activities," Baker added. "He was thorough and meticulous, while scrupulously maintaining the tone and style of each writer. He worked with established writers whose work he barely touched, as well as beginners he taught how to write."

A memorial service to celebrate Mooney's life of will take place June 22 at 6 p.m. at the Society for Ethical Culture in New York City. Please RSVP to Joan at TedMemorialService@gmail.com. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mooney's name to the New York Institute for the Humanities. 


Notes

Image of the Day: Suleiman's Ring at B&N

Sherif Meleka read from his English-language fiction debut, Suleiman's Ring, translated by Raymond Stock (Hoopoe/The American University in Cairo Press), at Barnes & Noble, Staten island, N.Y. Pictured with Meleka is bookstore manager Jessica Claudio.

Pride Month Displays: 'We Stand Strong & Deepen Our Commitment to Being a Safe Space'

Happy Pride Month! Indie booksellers launched the celebration in many ways yesterday, including store book displays. Here's a sampling:

Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.: "Happy first day of #pridemonth! Come celebrate with books for all ages!!!"

At Blair Books

Blair Books & More, Chester, Vt.: "Happy Pride Month!!! Come check out some fantastic books and authors!" 

Read It Again, Suwanee, Ga.: "Here is our loud and proud Queer Display! We've actually had it up for a month now, because we are so excited! Happy Pride y'all!" 

Third Street Books, McMinnville, Ore.: Happy Pride Month, Mac! It's the first day of June and the first day of Rainbow Quest! Here's how to play...."

Kew & Willow Books, New York, N.Y.: "Happy Pride Month!"

The Literary, Champaign, Ill: "Happy Pride Month! This month and every month, we're celebrating LGBTQ+ authors, stories, experiences, struggle, and joy. During this time of exceptional threat and violence against the LGBTQ+ community, we stand strong and deepen our commitment to being a safe space, spreading love and kindness, and celebrating love. Happy Pride everyone!"

At Trident Booksellers

Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, Mass.: "&& just like that, life is colorful. Swipe for after! Happy Pride Month, everyone! We are so thankful for the LGBTQIA+ staff and customers that make our store so special. We strive to be an inclusive spot that feels safe and comfortable for all. This is your third place! When you come into the store this month and check out our staff picks around the store highlighting queer books and authors. Have your own rec? Put it in the comments down below so we can all add it to our tbr list!"

An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass.: "HAPPY PRIDE Y'ALL. Our staff has put together some amazing displays featuring our favorite LGBTQIA+ books to highlight this month (although we of course love these books all year round!) Stop by to check out these great reads and celebrate with us!"

White Rose Books & Coffee Bar, Thirsk, U.K.: "To celebrate Pride month in June, we've redesigned our Picture Books into the colours of a Rainbow. What do you think?"


Chalkboard: Novel Bay Booksellers

"We have LOTS of choices, with tons more arriving each day!" Novel Bay Booksellers, Sturgeon Bay, Wis., made this promise while sharing a pic on Facebook of the shop's latest sidewalk chalkboard message: "You've got this! And by 'this' we mean a book. Wait--you don't have one?! Well lucky you! We have lots of choices!" 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: John Vercher on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: John Vercher, author of After the Lights Go Out (Soho Press, $26, 9781641293310).

Tomorrow:
NPR's The People's Pharmacy: Katy Bowman, co-author of Rethink Your Position: Reshape Your Exercise, Yoga, and Everyday Movement, One Part at a Time (Propriometrics Press, $19.95, 9781943370238).

Sunday:
MSNBC's Jen Psaki: James Comey, author of Central Park West: A Crime Novel (Mysterious Press, $30, 9781613164037).


TV: Whips

Cleo Watson's Whips, "the steamy novel written by Boris Johnson's former adviser that's been the talk of Westminster," will be getting a TV adaptation through Andy Serkis's Imaginarium Productions, which won the rights to adapt "following a hotly-contested auction," Deadline reported. 

Watson served as former Prime Minister Johnson's deputy chief of staff at the height of the pandemic and has set her debut novel in the corridors of the British establishment. Deadline noted that the book has been described as House of Cards meets 50 Shades of Grey.

The author said adapting Whips for TV was her "wildest dreams" coming true. Imaginarium's co-founder Jonathan Cavendish (Bridget Jones's Diary) added that the story was about female power, featuring three "bright, flawed, loyal and lovable" central characters.



Books & Authors

Awards: Society of Authors Shortlists

The Society of Authors announced this year's Authors' Awards shortlists across 11 categories, including the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award, the Betty Trask Prize, the Paul Torday Memorial Prize, the Queen’s Knickers Award, the McKitterick Prize, the Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize, and the inaugural Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize.

The winners will be honored July 29 at a ceremony presented by Joanne Harris and keynote speaker Val McDermid, at Southwark Cathedra in London. The winners share a prize fund of more than £100,000 (about $125,265). Check out the complete Authors' Awards shortlists here.


Reading with... Peter S. Beagle

photo: Kathleen Hunt

Author and screenwriter Peter S. Beagle has won nearly every award available to science fiction and fantasy writers, including the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Mythopoeic, and World Fantasy Awards, as well as the SFWA Grand Master Award. For more than 60 years, he has given generations of readers the magic of unicorns, haunted cemeteries, lascivious trees, and disgruntled gods. His best-known work is The Last Unicorn. Beagle is also known for his work on screen, including the teleplay for "Sarek," one of the most popular episodes of the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Tachyon Publications recently released a two-volume set of his stories: The Essential Peter S. Beagle.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

I've always told stories; it's what I do. These books give you a look at a few of the different worlds inside my head.

On your nightstand now:

I am currently reading Take Two: A Life in Movies and Politics by Philip Dunne, which is a marvelous book. I actually met Philip Dunne and became friends with him. He was amazed that I knew his father's work (Finley Peter Dunne, author of the Mr. Dooley essays in my father's time). Phil told me that he had all kinds of education, but he couldn't actually do anything, so there was nothing for him to do but go to Hollywood to look for work. His father had friends there, so he got jobs and worked with some remarkable people who taught him how to do screenwriting. When I met him, he was retired. He was a genuinely civilized man who also happened to be a liberal at a time when that could be dangerous.

Before that, I was reading Flash for Freedom! by George MacDonald Fraser, which is the second in his Flashman series. I read everything by George MacDonald Fraser that I can get my hands on. They're very good stories; they have a very appealing hero.

Favorite book when you were a child:

You honestly expect me to remember that far back? I read everything by A.A. Milne, more than a few times. Winnie-the-Pooh does the right thing, even when he knows he doesn't want to do it. Winnie-the-Pooh has a sense of honor. As a child, I didn't always want to do the right thing either, but I knew what it was. Winnie-the-Pooh is a poet, too, and his best friend, Piglet, is much more practical than he is, so I could relate.

Your top five authors:

Ursula K. Le Guin: Ursula could do everything, and she always made it look easy even when I knew it wasn't.

James Thurber: James Thurber simply marked my life even when I didn't realize it. There are two books in particular: The 13 Clocks and The White Deer. Those two books made a difference in the way that I write.

Michael Gruber: Michael Gruber has no business being as good as he is, and he knows stuff he shouldn't know. He's one writer I'd really like to meet so that I could ask him: "How do you think like that?"

Avram Davidson: Avram didn't know everything in the world. I know that, and we even discussed that. For all practical purposes, though, I believe in my heart that he really did know everything in the world.

Diana Norman: Diana was funny, scary, and I believe every one of her characters completely. I can't say that about many people. We always meant to meet in person, but we never did, and it still pisses me off.

Book you've faked reading:

I keep trying to read Dan Brown's novels, but I never quite do. I'm sure it's my own fault.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. If you're going to write a historical novel, you've got to start with that one. It's a fascinating book about the way that medieval England actually was, as opposed to the novels about it. It's still a book that I go back to if I'm setting a story in anything like medieval England.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I've never bought books by their cover. Half the time, I don't even notice the cover. I do love the covers of these new books, though. They're nothing that I would have imagined or thought of, but they work so perfectly. Somehow, they suggest everything.

Book you hid from your parents:

I never hid anything from my parents. I was allowed to read everything. I've always appreciated their encouragement in that aspect.

Book that changed your life:

Writing The Last Unicorn. I didn't know that at the time; it's just the way it worked out. Over the years, people have written to me from all over the world. They ask questions about it or tell me how much different characters meant to them, but that's not what I expected at all when I was writing it. I've made friends with so many people because of that book!

Favorite line from a book:

James Thurber said: "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers." I like that because it gives you space to be wrong.

Five books you'll never part with:

The answer changes almost daily. Today, this is the list:

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. I've talked before about how much I love that book. She's just too young to have written it!

Wolf Man's Maker by Curt Siodmak. It talks about so many things, and it incorporates so much of his life. He made a real distinction between what he wrote for money and what he wrote for love, and that's so interesting to me.

Adventures in Unhistory by Avram Davidson. His mind wanders and you never know where he's going to go.

When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw by Isaac Bashevis Singer. The stories always surprise me. They never come out the way I thought they would, even when I know them.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. It brings back so much of my childhood, and my mother who read it to me.

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

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman. The love of my life loved his work, and I was always under instructions to read anything of his I could find.


Book Review

Review: The Possibilities

The Possibilities by Yael Goldstein-Love (Random House, $27 hardcover, 304p., 9780593446485, July 25, 2023)

A woman must learn to step through time and space to save her infant son in The Possibilities, an ambitious, mind-bending sci-fi thriller by Yael Goldstein-Love (The Passion of Tasha Darsky).

Hannah's insistence on a C-section in the delivery room saved the life of her baby, Jack, but her days with her new son are haunted by the "car-swerve" feeling that another possibility scraped the edge of their lives. She can't shake the image of Jack blue and unable to breathe. Her husband, Adam, calls this nagging feeling her "Jewish Mother Overdrive," but to Hannah it feels more like a memory she shouldn't have.

Hours after Adam broadsides her with an early-morning divorce announcement, Hannah walks away from Jack's stroller for a moment and returns to find him gone. A frantic search ends when she discovers him right where she left him, apparently having never moved.

Hannah worries she's developing a mental illness similar to the one that took her mother from her, worries that intensify when she finds herself transported from her kitchen to a hiking trail. The apparent hallucination comes complete with a new set of memories of Jack having died at birth and a same-yet-not Adam who has no plans to leave her. It leaves behind physical sensations as though it really happened. Then Jack disappears, and people around her begin to forget he ever lived. Hannah has to wonder if she's experiencing a break with reality or a genuine phenomenon. Even if she can step between parallel realities, where has Jack gone? And what will she sacrifice to bring him home?

Goldstein-Love's game of hopscotch through the multiverse works both as a smart sci-fi thriller and as a metaphor for the worry, exhaustion, and power inherent in motherhood. What her husband sees as paranoia, Hannah recognizes as part of the job: "What did he think parenthood was, the vigilance required, the immense responsibility, if not a condition of too much seeing?"

The inclusion of a new mothers' support group adds notes of levity and community, while Hannah's worry about repeating her own mother's history feels true to life. Winding together cosmic malfunctions with the uncertainty of raising an infant creates a surprisingly apt pairing, while small moments of domestic peace reinforce the sense of Hannah's love for her child. This memorable, stirring work of suspense is primed to become a sensation in book club circles. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: A new mother must harness an astounding ability to save her child in this moving, suspenseful sci-fi thriller.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Bookseller's Story Always Includes Their Backstory

"On the corner of Hillside Road and Home Street, opposite Lake Manapōuri, sit two Wee Bookshops, painted in a medley of bright colors and surrounded by plants, curiosities and the odd bookshop pet or two," writes Ruth Shaw in the opening paragraph of The Bookseller at the End of the World (Allen & Unwin, IPG). 

She then goes on to describe a typical workday--from September through mid-April--at Two Wee Bookshops, noting: "My green 1961 Fiat 500 is prominently parked on the corner of Hillside Road and the Southern Scenic Highway, advertising the 'the Smallest Bookshop in New Zealand.' I put out the OPEN sign on the corner of Home Street and then start setting up the various tables and brightly painted old school desks with a variety of books. On the blackboard I write: OPEN, PLEASE RING BELL LOUDLY IF I AM NOT HERE."

It sounds idyllic. In most ways it probably is. Shaw was 70 when her initial Wee Bookshop debuted as a "fun retirement 'hobby,' " though she had prior bookselling experience. Three decades before, she had opened her first bookstore as part of Fiordland Ecology Holidays, a yacht charter operation she and her husband, Lance, ran together.

"Wait, what?" you ask. You're only on the book's second page and this deceptively quaint small-town bookseller in her 70s has just casually given you a peek at another page in her life's book: co-owner of a yacht charter operation? 

It gets better. A Guardian profile of Shaw last year, when the book was first published, opened: "Ruth Shaw has embodied many roles throughout her life: pig farmer, navy deserter, solo sailor, illegal gambler, environmentalist, chef to archbishops, psychiatric patient, failed escort. She's been arrested twice and married four times."

Her book's chapters alternate between memoir and "Tales from the bookshop"--deft sketches of customers, friends and colleagues--weaving a thread connecting her extraordinary personal story with the people who have left their own mark on her little corner of hard-won paradise. The Guardian's piece noted that "the descriptor she appears most proud of is matchmaker. 'I suppose I really am that,' she muses with obvious delight. 'Yes, I match humans with books.' "

I read The Bookseller at the End of the World last year, but its U.S. release on Tuesday sent me back to the book because I'm fascinated by its wonderful contradiction to the cliches that sometimes brand booksellers. We're not all cut from a pattern, though sometimes I suspect that's how we're perceived by many customers walking through the front door. There is indeed the cliché template: college English major and lifelong passionate bibliophile (often an aspiring writer) graduates and gets--or continues--a bookstore job until they "figure out what to do with their lives."

But if you've worked in a bookstore, you know that pattern doesn't apply as much as people might think. Backgrounds, educational opportunities, previous work experiences (good and bad), family responsibilities, personal strengths and weaknesses, all the puzzle pieces of a life come into play. You meet interesting human beings when you're a bookseller. Many are customers, and they show you a page or two of their lives sometimes. But it's your colleagues, or at least some them, that you really get to know. Maybe not the whole book of their lives, but far more than a brief bio. 

When a new bookstore opens or is in the planning stage, the owner(s) will often share with the media information that is expected. They will talk about "fulfilling a lifelong dream" and "serving my community" and "making a beautiful space." If they speak of their past, it is most likely to be generalities about their immediate family or professional background. 

Booksellers, however, like all human beings, are complicated creations, years in the making. They are just rough drafts of themselves for a long, long time--maybe all the way through. When, at some point in their lives, a few brave souls decide to, say, open a bookshop, excerpts from their rough draft may be presented to the community as a final version to sustain the narrative, but the tale is always more complex than that.

You know that feeling you get when you learn somebody you knew long ago has opened a bookstore and you think, "I'm not surprised"? Well, that person is not Ruth Shaw. I like living in a world where she's sitting in her bookshop, adding new pages to her life experience while never forgetting the often chaotic, even perilous, journey she took to reach that simple-on-the-surface bookseller's idyll.

Shaw announced the imminent closure for the winter season of Two Wee Bookshops in a March Facebook post: "Thank you all for visiting the bookshops this summer! I'm going to be closed for winter soon so don't hesitate to pop up if you are interested in any of the beautiful books." I hope she has a nice winter.

In The Bookseller at the End of the World, she writes: "I have always enjoyed the fact that to find Two Wee Bookshops in Manapōuri, you have to look for Home street. It can take a very long time to find your home, but if you're lucky, you get there eventually. I did."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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