Shelf Awareness for Monday, June 12, 2023

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny


Administration Adding Anti-Book Ban Coordinator

In celebration of Pride Month, the Biden-Harris administration has announced a series of actions designed "to protect LGBTQI+ communities from attacks on their rights and safety," including the appointment by the Department of Education of a new coordinator to address the growing threat that book bans pose for the civil rights of students.

Noting that more a dozen states have enacted anti-LGBTQI+ laws that "violate our most basic values and freedoms as Americans, and are cruel and callous to our kids, our neighbors, and those in our community," the administration said it "stands with the LGBTQI+ community and has their backs in the face of these attacks."

Regarding the troubling increase in book challenges nationwide, the administration said: "Across the country, our nation faces a spike in book bans--efforts that disproportionately strip books about LGBTQI+ communities, communities of color, and other communities off of library and classroom shelves. In fact, 2022 saw the highest number of book bans in 20 years. Book banning erodes our democracy, removes vital resources for student learning, and can contribute to the stigma and isolation that LGBTQI+ people and other communities face."

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights will appoint a coordinator who "will work to provide new trainings for schools nationwide on how book bans that target specific communities and create a hostile school environment may violate federal civil rights laws," according to the administration.

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

E.U. Approves Vivendi Purchase of Lagardère

After a nine-month investigation, the European Commission has approved the purchase of Lagardère, owner of Hachette, France's largest publisher, by Vivendi, with several conditions. Vivendi must sell its Editis publishing house, the second largest publisher in France, as well as Gala, the celebrity magazine, according to the Bookseller and Buchreport.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager commented: "We must be sure that the publishing and media markets remain competitive to encourage a diversity of ideas and opinions. The proposed requirements will maintain existing competition in these markets to the benefit of consumers."

Vivendi chair Yannick Bolloré said that the purchase will fulfill the company's "strategic efforts to internationalize our operations and our wish to be a leading global actor in the area of culture and entertainment."

Vivendi said it should conclude all transactions by the end of October, creating a company that will be the world's third largest trade and educational publisher, bolstering its presence in "key markets, such as France, the United Kingdom, Spain and the United States."

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Mass.'s Rozzie Bound Co-op Resonates in the Community

WGBH's "Shelf Life" profiled Rozzie Bound Co-op, Roslindale, Mass., a bookstore owned by its workers and customers that opened in January and has some 200 members.

The four founders--Ana Crowley, Talia Whyte, Judy McClure, and Kim Patch--began the store "as an experiment," GBH reported. "It all started at the beginning of the pandemic when four women launched a pop-up in a co-working space as a way to find out if Roslindale would support a small bookstore." The reaction from the community was positive, and the quartet was able to find space on Roslindale Square.

Memberships cost $100 and allow consumer-owners to vote at the yearly shareholder meeting, elect board members, attend special events, and get discounts on books on owner appreciation days as well as all the time on branded merchandise. In the future, dividends are a possibility, but a more immediate benefit is being part of the Rozzie Bound community, McClure said. "The community support from the consumer-owners has been very, very important and has really made this possible."

Crowley added that the hybrid co-op business model could inspire others who want to start businesses, saying, "I'm starting to see a lot of interest in that business model, so it's really exciting to be kind of on the forefront of that and be able to advise people on things that we found worked or didn't work and help other people start businesses."

The four founders have different backgrounds that influence their choices of titles to stock. "McClure is a writer and knows a lot of others in the community, Crowley has expertise in food, business, and kids books. Patch is a technology expert and environmentalist, so she helps pick out the science books," GBH noted. They all "operate every aspect of the store--from running the register, paying the bills, cleaning the store and picking out the approximately 700 books shelved in the space."

Rozzie Bound has a partnership with the Roslindale branch of the Boston Public Library called the Book Ambassador Program, "where local authors hold talks at the library and their signed books are kept in stock at Rozzie Bound," GBH said.

Ci2023: The State of the Children's Book Market

At Children's Institute last week in Milwaukee, Wis., Brenna Connor of Circana Books (formerly NPD) shared some insights into the state of the children's book market.

Giving a recap of 2022, Connor reported that print book sales were down 6% compared to 2021, which she noted was the "best year in BookScan history." Despite that decline, annual volume in 2022 was still the "second highest" that "we've ever seen," and historically it was a "pretty good year overall."

Brenna Connor

Going into more detail on 2022, Connor said adult fiction was the only supercategory to post gains over 2021, while all other categories declined. Romance was the "leading driver" behind adult fiction growth, while manga, suspense, and fantasy were also growth categories. Adult nonfiction, meanwhile, saw the steepest decline in 2022, with only travel seeing gains last year. Kids' fiction and nonfiction posted declines as well, and YA was "essentially flat."

Touching on format share, Connor added that print books made up about two thirds of overall sales, with the rest split between e-books and audiobooks. While the e-book format currently has a slight lead, they are "very close," and Connor said she thinks audiobooks will eventually surpass e-books "in the coming years." And within the audio category, adult titles have a higher share, but kids' audio is an area "ripe for growth."

Looking at 2023 so far, sales are down about 2% compared to 2022. Those declines have been led by adult nonfiction and kids, while adult fiction and YA are two segments "posting gains." Elaborating on YA, Connor said 2023 looks like it will be a "great year" for the segment, as it posted its highest Q1 volume in BookScan history, at around 8 million units. Sales are up 56% compared to the 2019, pre-pandemic benchmark, with the elevated volume being led by "authors and series supported by BookTok."

BookTok, Connor continued, "is not a fluke." It has been the major driver for growth in fiction over the last two years. 2021 was the year that BookTok sales took off, they "snowballed" in 2022, and so far this year they are up more than 50%. While romance makes up the largest subset of BookTok sales (with Colleen Hoover representing a "good portion" of that), it is not the only subject or genre that benefits from BookTok, with both YA and kids' series seeing growth.

Focusing in on the kids market, Connor said print sales are down 3%, with the decline split about evenly between fiction and nonfiction. Only a few kids' subjects have seen growth compared to last year, with animals, holidays, comics & graphic novels, activity books, and transportation being the standouts. Despite being down compared to 2022 and 2021 especially, all age segments are up over 2019, Connor pointed out.

Among the various age segments, the middle grade segment has seen the largest year-over-year decline. Looking at middle grade paperbacks vs. hardcovers and frontlist vs. backlist, Connor explained that the paperback format is driving more than half of the year-over-year decline, while frontlist is down more than 20% as opposed to backlist's 6%. Connor posited that the frontlist decline is "not necessarily a pricing issue," because if it were, there would be "more hardcover decline." The decline "raises more questions than answers," with Connor saying it is unclear whether it is driven by readers or retailers.

Middle grade was also affected by a "break" in the "chain of peer to peer discovery." Prior to the pandemic, there was a "diversified" children's market, with "many points of discovery," including bookstores, book fairs, and word of mouth. The pandemic changed that, and when sales surged in 2021, it was established authors and major publishers that benefited from that boost in sales. At the same time, children who were at the middle grade age in 2019 have by now "aged out" into higher reading levels (this could be a contributing factor to the increase in YA sales in 2023).

As for what's next for the children's market, Connor said she expects volume to stick "somewhat close" to 2022, with sales likely softer compared to last year "by a few percentage points." Middle grade "remains challenged," and Connor encouraged booksellers to "think about what's next" for the category, particularly "new voices and new stories." Touching on licensed books, Connor remarked on a "lack of newness" there; in general, there is a "conservative approach" to content and an emphasis on things already proven.

As for macro economic trends, Connor said affordability is and will remain a factor for consumers, and discretionary spending has already dipped in the face of rising costs for groceries and other essentials. However, there are opportunities to be had in smaller markets around the country that have seen population growth since the beginning of the pandemic, and there is "greater importance" for bricks-and-mortar retail. --Alex Mutter


Image of the Day: Local Favorite

More than 100 people came out to meet author S.A. Cosby at an event hosted by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va., for his new thriller, All the Sinners Bleed (Flatiron). Cosby was in conversation with Fountain general manager Andi Richardson and was introduced by owner Kelly Justice, who described the evening as "meaningful, funny, healing, important. All the things. ALL the things." Pictured: Richmond bookstore owners (from l.) Berkley McDaniel, Shelf Life Books, Krystle Dandridge, The Book Bar, and Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore, with (seated) author S.A. Cosby.

Personnel Changes at Microcosm; Open Road

At Microcosm Publishing:

Elly Blue has been promoted to v-p.

Anna-Lisa Sandstrum, previously associate director of school & library sales & marketing at Chronicle Books, has joined the company to head up library sales.

Abby Rice, formerly manager of Title IX: A Bookstore in New London, Conn., is joining the company as marketing supervisor.

Tyler Lane Murphy has been promoted to customer service manager.


Heidi Sachner has been promoted to senior v-p, business development at Open Road Integrated Media. She joined the company in 2020 and has led the development of the company's Ignition program and now leads Activation, too.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Christian Cooper on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Power Code: More Joy. Less Ego. Maximum Impact for Women (and Everyone). (Harper Business, $32, 9780062984555).

Today Show: Helen Ellis, author of Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge: Intimate Confessions from a Happy Marriage (Doubleday, $26, 9780385548205).

Fresh Air: Christian Cooper, author of Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World (Random House, $28, 9780593242384).

Drew Barrymore Show repeat: Stacey Abrams, author of Stacey's Remarkable Books (Balzer + Bray, $19.99, 9780063271852).

Good Morning America: Nick DiGiovanni, author of Knife Drop: Creative Recipes Anyone Can Cook (DK, $35, 9780744076776).

CBS Mornings: Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Five-Star Weekend (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316258777).

The View: Ken Jennings, author of 100 Places to See After You Die: A Travel Guide to the Afterlife (Scribner, $27.99, 9781501131585).

NPR's All Things Considered: Tania James, author of Loot: A Novel (Knopf, $28, 9780593535974).

Movies: Hedda Gabler

Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore) will join Tessa Thompson as stars of Nia DaCosta's film adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's classic play Hedda Gabler. The Hollywood Reporter noted that DaCosta and Thompson previously worked together on the director's feature debut, Little Woods. Eve Hewson will also star in the project.

DaCosta wrote and will direct the movie for MGM's Orion label and Plan B. DaCosta and Gabrielle Nadig are producing, along with Thompson, who produces via her Viva Maude label. Executive producers are Kishori Rajan for Viva Maude and Michael Constable.

Books & Authors

Awards: Griffin Poetry, Canadian First Book Winners

Roger Reeves won the 2023 Griffin Poetry Prize, which is designed to "encourage and celebrate excellence in poetry," for his collection Best Barbarian. The winner receives C$130,000 (about US$97,445), with the other finalists awarded C$10,000 (about US$7,495).

The judges' citation noted: "Among the many remarkable poems in Best Barbarian is 'Journey to Satchidananda' in which the poet writes: 'The Japanese call it Kintsugi./ Where the vessel broken, only gold will permit/ Its healing. Its history.' The beauty of that repair, which does not hide nor erase the evidence of trauma--of history--but transforms it, is the abiding metaphor in this capacious and wide-ranging meditation. At the intersections of history and myth, elegy and celebration, these poems chart the ruptures and violences enacted across time and space--particularly against black humanity--while leaning always toward beauty. Beauty and tenderness abound in this collection that dares to risk both: a brilliant and ambitious book."


The Big Melt by Emily Riddle has won the inaugural Canadian First Book Prize, sponsored by the Griffin Poetry Prize. Riddle receives C$10,000 (US$7,495).

The judges wrote: "Emily Riddle's The Big Melt is nêhiyaw governance, Cree governance, at its single most personal form of self-autonomy. The governance of heart and history, language and landscape, nêhiyaw-askiy, Cree earth/land, is embedded in these warrior-women poems. If there is a trail back to our ancestors and forward to ourselves, these poems call us to be still, and to listen to a new generation of storytellers."

Book Review

Review: Under the Influence

Under the Influence by Noelle Crooks (Gallery Books, $27.99 hardcover, 352p., 9781668004944, August 8, 2023)

Under the Influence, Noelle Crooks's first novel, follows a young woman into a work opportunity that offers the chance for great success--or a total loss of self.

A few years ago, Harper Cruz moved from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to the big city to make her way as a writer, and then slid into what she thought was a safer position working in publishing. Now, laid off, she's been struggling to make rent, aided by a perfectly lovely best friend, Poppy. It's Poppy who finds the listing for a "Visionary Support Strategist" to a social media sensation, influencer Charlotte Green. As soon as she's applied, Harper finds herself whisked off to Nashville, Tenn., rushed through signing a contract for an unbelievable amount of money, and inducted into the work family at the Greenhouse, where tiny, magnetic, manipulative Charlotte rules a team of employees who are both in love with and terrified of her.

Harper is bookish; she couldn't have named a single influencer before she worked for one; and her own Insta, according to a #GreenTeam colleague, is "sad." She has off-and-on concerns about Charlotte's self-help empire; her boss notes more than once how much integrity Harper has. But she falls under the spell of Charlotte's charm and carefully meted compliments and soon embraces the long hours, absence of work-life balance, and cult-like branding that defines the Greenhouse. Mandatory dance parties, social media oversharing, and bottomless green juice should compensate for a few HR violations, right? Harper has a new best friend and possibly even a romantic interest, both at work. She sees herself losing touch with Poppy and her own parents, but Charlotte needs her--even at night, over the weekends, and on holidays. Charlotte warns her staff, of course, that their families won't support their work: "Powerful people can be intimidating." If Harper starts seeing her relationships break down, she figures, "I guess that's just the price of success."

Under the Influence is propulsive in its pacing, with the chipper tones of the Green Team and the emotional roller coaster that is Harper's work (and only) life. That readers can see warning signs that Harper herself often fails to note makes the novel quietly terrifying, even in the upbeat spin so carefully crafted by Charlotte's helpers. The result is disorienting, even mind-bending: Harper's story is green-clad, photogenic, cheerful, and horrifying. Secondary characters at the Greenhouse are finely drawn and nuanced. After wrestling with workplace culture, female friendships, and the risks inherent in coming of age, Crooks's debut ends on a hopeful note, blending horror into fantasy. Compulsively readable, frightening but addictive, Under the Influence perfectly captures some of the contradictions and challenges of modern work life. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: An aspiring writer goes to work for charismatic self-help guru in a propulsively paced, Stepford-like tale of workplace violations and the search for self-actualization.

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