Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 14, 2023

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine


Black Cat Books & Oddities Opens in Medina, Ohio

Black Cat Books & Oddities, with a family-friendly "eccentric Victorian vibe," officially opened yesterday in the historic South Town district of Medina, Ohio, near Cleveland. The owners are Max Frazier and Alicia Hoisington Frazier, who live in Medina with their two children.

"We lovingly restored this house on South Court Street, originally built in 1927. This is the first time the house has been open to the public as a retail location," Max Frazier said. "We're also excited about our selection from local authors, who have a special place here at Black Cat. We're happy to support these budding talents, and we invite the community to support them, too!"

"We hope our guests will notice the little details, as they all come from two people who truly enjoy a good work of literature," Alicia Hoisington Frazier said. "I grew up in Medina, and I'm happy we are able to invest in a community that I truly feel has invested so much in me. We look forward to partnering with area businesses and the community to help grow the South Town area of the city."

The store features six rooms with their own themes, including the Raven's Roost, "Edgar Allan Poe's lair," which "lovers of thrillers will scream for"; the Cabinet of Curiosities, for "fantasy lovers," and includes "quirky cookbooks, witchy worlds, true crime, and more"; the Literary Common, featuring YA, BookTok, and new releases; Sherlock's Study, with classic mystery titles; Phantom's Passage, geared to 8-12-year-olds; and the Secret Garden, where a "flower-laden doorway" leads to "a world built just for the littlest of readers."

Black Cat offers "mystery" books--wrapped titles, with genre indicated, that include prizes such as bookmarks, stickers, and gift cards. The store also sells gifts, records, apparel, and more.

Opening day went well. Last night, the store posted on Facebook, "Medina! You all really showed UP today! Thank you all for the support, from the bottom of our hearts. We didn't anticipate our little shop would be as packed today as it was. We sincerely thank you all for being patient with us and our employees as we worked through it. We love you all!

"Also, THANK YOU for supporting our local authors. We were so excited that many of their titles flew off the shelves today AND SOLD OUT. This truly is the best community!

"We'll be back open on Tuesday 11-7 with replenished shelves!"

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black

For Sale: N.H.'s Bayswater Books

Bayswater Books, Center Harbor, N.H., in the Lakes Region, is for sale. Owner Michelle Taft announced that she plans to retire and will close the store in October if she cannot find a buyer. "Though difficult to announce, since saying goodbye will not be easy, I am looking forward to spending more time with family, friends and my next big adventure," she wrote.

Taft thanked customers for their support of the store over the past 30-plus years and "especially the support you have shown me since I took on the store in 2006. Owning & managing Bayswater with the best team imaginable and being part of this community has been nothing but a complete joy for me."

Interested parties can call Taft at the store at 603-253-8858 or on her cell at 508-523-9288.

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!

The Nook in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Expanding into New Space

The Nook co-owners Abby Olson and Brandon Conrad

The Nook, a mini bookshop in Cedar Falls, Iowa, featuring popular adult and YA books, will move from its current small space in the Cob Mercantile market to a larger space by November. K92.3 reported that co-owners Abby Olson and Brandon Conrad are "embarking on a whole new adventure together... expanding and moving their business into their very own storefront" at 216 Main Street. 

The current tenant, a vintage shop called Miss Wonderful, is vacating the space next month. Owner Ann Eastman said, "I'm so thrilled that the Nook will be inhabiting this space! Abby and Brandon are hardworking, creative entrepreneurs with a desire to see downtown thrive. A bookstore is just what we need."

The Nook's owners posted on Facebook: "Big news! We're moving into our own storefront! A bookstore is finally coming to Downtown Cedar Falls! Eeeek! The news is bittersweet because we're moving into Miss Wonderful's location. Ann was the first person to give us a chance on Main Street. Brandon walked into Miss Wonderful last spring (2022) with a box of candles to see if she'd be interested in carrying them in her store and she said yes! We were SO excited. Ann helped our business take a huge step and now she's helped us take an even bigger one. Ann is the loveliest and most supportive person and we are so incredibly grateful for her. We're overjoyed (and terrified) to bring a bookstore to Main Street."

The Nook's mini bookshop inside the Cob Mercantile will remain be open until November.

Obituary Note: Keith Waldrop

Keith Waldrop

Keith Waldrop, whose first poetry collection was a finalist for a National Book Award in 1969 and who won the prize 40 years later with his Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy, died July 27. He was 90. The New York Times called Waldrop "far more than a poet. He was a well-regarded translator of French poetry and prose, was an artist whose collages were exhibited in solo and group shows, and ran a small press with his wife, the poet Rosmarie Waldrop." He retired from Brown University as Brooke Russell Astor Professor of Literary Arts & Comparative Literature in 2011, after more than 40 years with the school. 

As a translator, Waldrop earned the rank of Chevalier of Arts and Letters from the French government. His translations ranged from canonical writers like Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine to French contemporaries like Anne-Marie Albiach, Jean Grosjean, Jacques Roubaud, and Claude Royet-Journoud, Brown University noted.

In addition to dozens of books of his own poetry, he also collaborated with Rosmarie Waldrop on a series of poems, eventually collected as Well, Well, Reality, which Roubaud described as the work of a third Waldrop--one who could exist only when the couple composed together, where each often took liberties, using literary devices that might be thought of as "belonging to the other." Waldrop also published two books of prose, Hegel's Family and Light While There Is Light.

In the 1960s, while pursuing his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, Waldrop, with co-editors James Camp and D.C. Hope, founded Burning Deck, a literary journal. After four issues, it was transformed into a book press, with Camp and Hope departing and Rosmarie Waldrop joining as co-editor. The press ran from 1961 to 2017 and published more than 200 titles, with the majority of books after 1990 being book-length, perfect-bound offset editions, often including letter press flourishes on the covers or title pages.
Soon after he graduated, the University of Michigan published Waldrop's first collection, A Windmill Near Calvary (1968), which earned him his first National Book Award nomination. The second one, for Transcendental Studies in 2009, won the prize. Over the course of decades in between, Waldrop "honed an eye for the ironic, a seeming detachment that was infused with an emotional and intellectual undercurrent that could astonish the reader in its capacity to bridge disparate thought with, if not logic, then perhaps something deeper, richer. Keith's self-effacement was deliberate--his sense of the line between the real and the unreal always ready for reassessment," Brown University wrote. 

From his poem "An Apparatus":

What I mean is a disturbance in
all the senses at once. You will not find
the flower confused. Facing a certain
wind, there is always danger.

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Private Rites
by Julia Armfield
GLOW: Flatiron Books: Private Rites by Julia Armfield

In Private Rites, Julia Armfield (Our Wives Under the Sea; salt slow) offers an atmospheric meditation on sisterhood and loss at the end of the world. Living in a bleak, water-inundated city where the rain rarely stops, Isla, Irene, and Agnes are shocked at the abrupt death of their father, who has left his house to only one of them. As they grapple with his last manipulation, they must grapple, too, with what it means to have relationships with each other beyond his reach. As Flatiron Books executive editor Caroline Bleeke notes, Armfield's novel may be about "difficult things," yet it "manages to be so funny, so loving, so brilliant, and so beautifully, singularly written." Private Rites is a testament to the light that can be found in each other, even in the darkest of times. --Alice Martin

(Flatiron, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781250344311, December 3, 2024)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: NVNR Booksellers' 'Reverse Author Signing'

Author Wickliffe W. Walker received a diagnosis that kept him from attending New Voices New Rooms in Arlington, Va., last week, where he was scheduled to appear at the Indie Press Author Reception and sign copies of his forthcoming Torrents As Yet Unknown: Daring Whitewater Ventures into the World's Great River Gorges (Steerforth Press). So dozens of booksellers did a reverse author signing to honor Walker--adding their store names and hometowns to a life preserver shirt brought to the show by Steerforth sales and marketing director David Goldberg. BINC's Pam French got wind of the outpouring of support and pointed out that this is what booksellers do: "They show up and show support." Pictured: SIBA executive director Linda-Marie Barrett (l.) and BINC executive director Pam French.

Banned Books Display: Kepler's Books and Magazines

Kepler's Books and Magazines, Menlo Park, Calif., shared a photo on Facebook of the shop's Banned Books display, noting: "We read BANNED BOOKS. How about you? If you've read Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Goosebumps (series), Harry Potter--then YOU'VE read banned books too."

Norton to Distribute The Experiment Publishing

W.W. Norton will handle print and digital distribution in the U.S. and some international markets for The Experiment Publishing, effective January 1.

Founded in 2008 by Matthew Lore and Peter Burri, The Experiment publishes a range of nonfiction and children's storybooks with a teaching mission. It has published more than 460 books and is distributed in Canada by the University of Toronto Press (sold in Canada by the Canadian Manda Group), in the U.K. by Melia Publishing Services, and in Australia and New Zealand by Affirm Press.

Publisher Matthew Lore said, "My colleagues and I feel fortunate that our books will be sold by W.W. Norton's storied sales team, not least Norton's director of trade sales, Steven Pace, with whom we worked in our first six years as a Workman distribution client. The work of other independent publishers inspired me to embark on The Experiment 15 years ago. As the largest and oldest independent, employee-owned publisher in the U.S., Norton is the standard-bearer among independents. We look forward to the prospect of a long and successful partnership with them on our U.S. sales and distribution."

Steven Pace added: "With its distinctive, thoughtfully curated list, dedicated to enhancing reader experiences, and its mission to 'enlighten, empower, and entertain,' The Experiment calls to mind some key aspects of Norton's own publishing program for adult and young readers. We are excited to work hand in hand with The Experiment to introduce its full range of titles to the marketplace."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Greg Harden on CBS Mornings

CBS Mornings: Greg Harden, author of Stay Sane in an Insane World: How to Control the Controllables and Thrive (Blackstone, $25.99, 9781665092418). He will also appear tomorrow on Good Morning America.

Also on CBS Mornings: L'Oreal Thompson Payton, author of Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Power (BenBella, $18.95, 9781637743072).

Movies: You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah

Netflix has released a trailer for You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, based on the novel by Fiona Rosenbloom. Deadline reported that the project stars Adam Sandler, his daughter Sunny Sandler (Hustle), Idina Menzel, and Samantha Lorraine (The Walking Dead: World Beyond). It is scheduled to premiere on August 25.

Falling under the longtime deal between Netflix and Sandler's Happy Madison production company, You Are So Not Invited was directed by Sammi Cohen (Crush) from a script by Alison Peck. Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy produced for Happy Madison, alongside Leslie Morgenstein and Elysa Koplovitz Dutton for Alloy Entertainment; with Barry Bernardi, Judit Maull and Kevin Grady exec producing on behalf of Sandler's banner.

The cast also includes Adam Sandler's wife Jackie (The Wrong Missy) and daughter Sadie (Hubie Halloween), along with Sarah Sherman, Luis Guzmán, Ido Mosseri, Dylan Hoffman, Dean Scott Vazquez, Miya Cech, Ivory Baker, Dylan Dash, Millie Thorpe, Zaara Kuttemperoor, Judd Goodstein, and Kasey Bella Suarez.

Books & Authors

Awards: Ngaio Marsh Finalists

Finalists have been unveiled for the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards, honoring the best in New Zealand crime writing, Books+Publishing reported. The winners will be announced at the WORD Christchurch Festival in late October. This year's shortlisted titles are:

The Devil You Know: Encounters in Forensic Psychiatry by Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne
The Fix: The Story of One of New Zealand's Biggest Swindles by Scott Bainbridge
Missing Persons by Steve Braunias
Downfall: The Destruction of Charles Mackay by Paul Diamond
A New Dawn by Emeli Sione

First novel
Paper Cage by Tom Baragwanath 
Better the Blood by Michael Bennett
Surveillance by Riley Chance
The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum
One Heart One Spade by Alistair Luke
Too Far From Antibes by Bede Scott

Better the Blood by Michael Bennett
The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum 
Remember Me by Charity Norman
Blood Matters by Renée 
Exit .45 by Ben Sanders
The Doctor's Wife by Fiona Sussman
Blue Hotel by Chad Taylor

Book Review

Review: The Last Language

The Last Language by Jennifer duBois (Milkweed Editions, $26 hardcover, 240p., 9781639551088, October 17, 2023)

The Last Language by Jennifer duBois (A Partial History of Lost Causes; Cartwheel; The Spectators) is an utterly compelling puzzle of linguistics, perspective, and some version of love. Angela is 27 years old when her husband dies suddenly; she is four months pregnant (a pregnancy she will lose, "because of the stress, possibly") and has a four-year-old daughter. Just months later, she is kicked out of her Ph.D. program in linguistics at Harvard, following a nasty exchange with her "intellectual rival and personal archnemesis." With her daughter, Angela moves in with her mother and takes a low-paying job running an experimental therapy for "facilitated communication" to help nonspeaking patients with motor impairments. This questionable opportunity will have profound consequences. Readers gradually become aware that Angela is writing her first-person narrative while incarcerated. She tells of her love affair with a young man who can communicate only through Angela herself. Or, if readers do not believe her account, she has taken egregious advantage of a seriously disabled man.

Angela's background in linguistics gives her a complex, many-layered perspective on Sam O'Keefe's ability to communicate and even to think: "if thinking was language, the linguistic determinist would argue, then there was nothing to discover within people who didn't have it already." Despite early reservations, she is quickly taken with Sam's sardonic humor, the life behind his startling eyes, his wit and intelligence--at least according to her account. Angela is very smart and has a thoroughly expert grasp of languages and linguistic theory; she knows what this looks like, but she knows her love for Sam, and his for her, is real. Readers must decide for themselves. This question is at the deeply intriguing heart of The Last Language. Is Angela a deluded predator or among the most misunderstood lovers of all time? DuBois's choice to give readers only her perspective on this story is critical to the contortions of this gripping psychological drama.

Angela is ardent. She makes poor decisions, but her love is pure. She sprinkles her narrative with linguistic trivia and philosophic musings: she anticipates the arguments of the prosecution in her case and those of the linguistic scholars who would say "a person cannot conceive of what he cannot name." She writes to Sam, who will never read her account: "In a very real sense, there was no you." Together, she and Sam read Nabokov: Pale Fire rather than Lolita, but the parallels present themselves. Backed by Angela's academic scholarship and the philosophy of what constitutes humanity, The Last Language is a smart intellectual riddle and a mystery with the highest of stakes. Readers will find it unforgettable. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A Harvard-trained linguist enters into an intimate relationship with a nonverbal man in this riveting riddle of a novel.

Deeper Understanding

Time to Get on the Road

Lanora Jennings

Sales rep and former bookseller Lanora Jennings says that if the book world wants to continue to lower the barriers to entry for a diverse group of new booksellers, we need to go to them, instead of assuming they can come to us. Just as they are reimagining business models, we need to reimagine how to help them learn how to run their businesses.

In 1993, independent bookselling was facing a major crisis. Chuck Robinson, then ABA president and owner of Village Books, Bellingham, Wash., said that there was "concern over the future of bookselling with the growth of mega-stores and now electronic publishing.... Selling books is like farming; what's being threatened is not just a job, but a life."

I was called to the life of bookselling 30 years ago. As a young bookseller, I was fortunate to have some incredible mentors, including Carla Cohen, co-founder of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., and David Schwartz of the Harry W. Schwartz bookstores in Milwaukee, Wis. They invested in me. I was brought to the trade shows and encouraged to attend the education sessions. Knowing I wanted to open a store of my own, Carla rotated me through every position in the store, from receiver to buyer, so I could gain the knowledge I needed. The team at Harry W. Schwartz gave me the opportunity to manage and operate two of their locations, without any previous experience other than being part of their bookselling family. I earned my Master's in Bookselling between the stacks, in real time.

Today, I am a publisher sales representative. This January, I was done with attempting traditional sales calls over Zoom. What used to be a 90-minute conversation had dwindled down to a 20-minute one-dimensional connection. It was time to get back on the road. I began planning a normal travel season--except there would be nothing normal about it. More than 50 new stores have opened in my territory in the past three years. I had never met the owners, nor seen their stores. My established stores were so adept at working virtually we no longer needed a traditional sales call. The relationships we established in person led to a level of trust and communication that was not impeded in the virtual space.

Prior to 2020, traveling to smaller stores more than an hour from a major account did not justify the cost to acquire a $300 order. Yet, bookselling is grounded in face-to-face meetings. Whether at a rep picks session, over drinks at a convention, or personal visits to the stores, this business is conducted through our relationships. Even if I did not travel to the store, I was able to connect with booksellers at the trade shows. These new stores had been deprived of this opportunity, opening in a time of total isolation.

I flipped my focus to these new stores. I visited 66 bookstores, 32 of which had opened in the past three years. These new booksellers have created some amazing spaces. Kismet Books, located in a charming historic building, has become a safe space for local LGTBQ+ teens to hang out in rural Wisconsin. In Detroit, an unassuming brick building with no display windows is home to 27th Letter Books. The store feels like a living room in a posh studio apartment: inviting, comfortable, and filled with warm Midwestern hospitality. The operation is Black-owned, woman-owned, and Filipino-owned. One co-owner wrote that they wanted a store that "had something for everyone, a community where everyone is accepted no matter how strange." The industry has rejoiced at this influx of new bookstores. However, it may be too early to celebrate.

In my conversations with my new booksellers, I became concerned about their long-term viability. In one store, my visit entirely consisted of showing the manager how to use iPage. In another, I gave a crash course in using Edelweiss. Most of these stores told me they source 100% of their inventory from a wholesaler--not a sustainable practice. Booksellers had various reasons for not ordering directly from publishers: multiple direct orders took too much time; the learning curve was high; they didn't know how to open an account; they weren't using Edelweiss. With little or no previous bookselling experience, these booksellers were unaware of the resources available to them, or if they did, they were unable to take advantage of them. With only one full-time employee--themselves--few could afford the time and cost to attend the educational sessions offered at the trade shows. Scholarships are not an option if you have to close the store and lose a few days of business.

Most independent bookstores have been in predominantly white neighborhoods with a matching staff. Our industry has been slow to recognize the cultural and financial barriers of entry to bookselling. These new owners lacked many of the advantages I had as a young bookseller. Unlike many of my peers, they don't have an alternative source of income to support getting experience in a bookstore. Getting a job in a bookstore located in a community that doesn't reflect their identity has both emotional and logistical barriers. Working in a bookstore doesn't just teach you how to shelve books and run a register. Bookselling has its own unique culture, norms, and business practices that are learned through the connection with the book trade community at large. The exchange of ideas when we gather has made us collectively better at running events, managing our time, and much more. In the past, these connections are what educated and encouraged booksellers become the next generation of owners.

The new booksellers are creating a new kind of space--an ideal bookstore--that is welcoming and reflective of their communities. They are inspiring the rest of us to finally have important conversations on diversity and representation, offering a living wage, reimagining our business models. Yet, we can't forget that the ideal bookstore is still vulnerable to poor inventory management, lack of capital, or insufficient training.

For over a century, the book trade has recognized the value in educating the next generation of booksellers. The American Booksellers Association published the first Manual of Bookselling in 1921. Since then, a core component of the mission of the ABA and the regional booksellers associations has been education. Aspiring booksellers can attend bookselling schools and workshops. I'm not suggesting that education isn't available. I'm suggesting that these opportunities are often unattainable for many. We should also be reimagining our education models: start a one-on-one, low-cost mentoring program; provide in-person or virtual emergency "house calls"; provide scholarships for a veteran bookseller to spend time in their stores. Without easy access to the traditional methods of learning the trade, these stores are having to reinvent the codex.

As many publishers are looking at their dismal fiscal year, they are seeing one bright spot: an increase in sales through the independent bookstore market--something booksellers have been fighting for since the early '90s. This growth in market share is partly due to the education, collaboration, and community outreach initiatives that grew in response to that crisis. What will happen to these new stores if those answering the call of bookselling are unable to access the traditional spaces of education and collaboration? If they can't come to us, we need to go to them. It is time to get on the road.

Lanora Jennings is the Midwest sales representative for both Princeton University Press and Yale University Press. She is also researching and writing a book on the history of independent bookstores in America. Follow her on Instagram and Threads @bookstore_chronicles

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