Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, August 15, 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


PRH Launches Banned Books Resource Site

Penguin Random House is launching the Banned Books Resource Site, which features resources for anyone interested in taking action against book bans, including booksellers, librarians, teachers, parents, students, authors, and more. The site contains tips from organizations and PRH partners such as the American Library Association, PEN America, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and United Against Book Bans. The site also features a selection of banned books, grouped by category, that will be rotated regularly--a sampling of the hundreds of books being banned daily across the country--along with details about what Penguin Random House is doing to get books back on shelves and into readers' hands.

Each resource page has an introduction from a free expression advocate, starting with PRH CEO Nihar Malaviya, who introduces the "Resources for Everyone" section. Other sections and advocates include:

Booksellers: Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in southern Florida and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair International
Authors & Creators: Jacob Tobia, author of the memoir Sissy
Parents: Keiawnna Pitts, a community activist and mother of four in Round Rock, Tex., and director of the Round Rock Black Parents Association
Students: Karly Shepherd, a student at Baylor University and contributor to the youth-led history podcast UnTextbooked
Teachers & Librarians: Becky Calzada, district library coordinator in Leander, Texas, and co-founding member of #FReadom Fighters

Malaviya said, "We believe in the power of books and their ability to make us better--as individuals and as a society. Books give us perspective; their stories allow us to feel seen and provide us with the opportunity to learn from each other's lived experiences. The acceleration of book bannings, challenges, and related legislation sweeping across the country is a direct threat to democracy and our constitutional rights. Diverse stories deserve to be told, and readers deserve the autonomy to choose what books they read."

PRH has been active fighting censorship and for free speech and the First Amendment in other ways, too. It is a plaintiff in suits filed in the past few months in Florida, Texas, and Arkansas against various state book banning laws.

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Pa.'s Newtown Bookshop on the Move

Newtown Bookshop's current location.

Newtown Bookshop, Newtown, Pa., will relocate this fall after more than two decades in the Newtown Shopping Center. The new location is in the Village at Newtown South, near the Borscht Belt Delicatessen and the Newtown Farmer's Market.

"We anticipate moving in early October and until then we will be at our current location continuing to offer the same great customer service along with a wonderful selection of books, gifts and greeting cards," Newtown Bookshop owner Kathy Morrison posted on social media. "We enjoyed our current center for over 20 years but want to position ourselves for continued success and growth and feel this move will help us achieve that. The new space will have an updated look and it will allow us to have more people in the store for our events. We look forward to showing you this new space where we will continue to strive to be a place where people can gather, learn, and share. 

"Thank you for your overwhelming support of the Newtown Bookshop! And I humbly ask for your continued support as we move onto our next chapter."

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

B&N Near Columbia, S.C., Moving

A Barnes & Noble store near Columbia, S.C., is moving from the Richland Mall in Forest Acres to the Shoppes at Woodhill in Columbia, the State reported.

The store, which has been a fixture of the Richland Mall since 1997, will close in January or February and reopen in the Shoppes at Woodhill a few weeks later. It will feature a new design and have a Starbucks cafe. The move comes as the Richland Mall begins a "years-long, $100 million overhaul," the State noted.

Obituary Note: Michela Murgia

Michela Murgia

Italian novelist, intellectual, and civil rights campaigner Michela Murgia, who "was a voice for minorities and a lightning rod for political debate" while garnering respect even from a prime minister whose policies she opposed, died August 10, the New York Times reported. She was 51. Murgia burst onto the scene nearly two decades ago with her first novel about her experience working in a call center. 

She was an outspoken critic of the country's rightward shift "at a time when its left-wing parties appeared to have lost their voice, and a feminist and civil rights champion urging acceptance of nontraditional family configurations in a nation in which the governing parties have promoted a more conservative vision," the Times wrote.

Even some who opposed her views, including Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, offered tributes, praising Murgia as "a woman who fought to defend her ideas, albeit notoriously different from mine, for which I have great respect."

Winner of the Premio Campiello literary prize in 2010, Murgia was a playwright, essayist, and columnist, the Guardian reported. She made her literary debut in 2006 with the novel Il Mondo Deve Sapere (The World Must Know), a satire about exploitation in a telemarketing call center that was made into a play and later adapted into the 2008 film Tutta la Vita Davanti (Whole Life Ahead) by Paolo Virzì. Her best-known book, Accabadora (2009), about euthanasia and adoption, earned many awards.

Known for her campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights and euthanasia, Murgia publicly revealed a few months ago that she had been diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer and had decided to speak openly about her illness, continuing to write articles and appear at public debates, the Guardian noted.

In 2022, she wrote God Save the Queer, an essay in which she reflected on the possibility of being a feminist and a Christian: "I would like to understand, as a feminist, if the Christian faith is really in contradiction with our desire for an inclusive and non-patriarchal world, or if instead it can't even show itself as an ally. As a Christian, I trust that faith also needs a feminist and queer perspective."

In July, she announced that she had married actor and director Lorenzo Terenzi "in articulo mortis," Latin for "at the point of death." The New York Times wrote that "under Italian law, her blood relatives would have inherited her property and been responsible for decisions about her unpublished work and her legacy. Although she was not in conflict with her family, marrying Mr. Terenzi ensured that her will would be observed, friends said."


Image of the Day: Literary Ladies of Minnesota

This past weekend, the Literary Ladies of Minnesota gathered on a beautiful summer morning. Twenty-six authors and booksellers shared coffee, conversation, and ghost stories. Pictured: (back row, l.-r.) Nigar Alam, Emma Nadler, Sarah Stonich, Julie Schumacher, Rosanna Staffa, Kate Ledger, Joan Klinger, Victoria Ford (Comma Bookshop), Gretchen Anthony, Judith Kissner (Scout & Morgan Books), Gretchen West (Valley Bookseller), Ann Woodbeck (Excelsior Bay Books), Stephanie Landsem, Holly Shellbach (Scout & Morgan Books), Angie Ross (Chapter One Books); (middle row) Trisha Speed Shaskan, Ellie Temple (Excelsior Bay Books), Jess Lourey, Wendy Webb, Toni Halleen, Alison McGhee, Lorna Landvik, Nina Hamza; (front row), Maxwell Gregory (GLIBA Board), Pamela Klinger-Horn (Valley Bookseller), Mary Webber O'Malley (Skylark Bookshop).

Red Emma's Bookstore, Baltimore, Md., Opens Mysterious Safe

Thanks to a safecracker from Winnipeg, Canada, Red Emma's Bookstore in Baltimore, Md., has opened a century-old safe the staff found during renovations of its Greenmount Avenue store, WMAR2 reported.

Last month, the store put out a call for help on social media, offering to split the contents of the safe with anyone able to open it.

The store had some rules:

"1. Manipulation only. Drilling or other destructive stuff is not allowed.
2. You can only attempt to open it when the bookstore is open for business.
3. We split the mystery contents 50/50, unless it is gross or cursed, in which case you can have all of it."

Rick Ammazzini, a bus driver from Winnipeg, Canada, with a passion for picking locks and opening safes, answered the call and flew some 1,500 miles to Baltimore. He began working on the safe on Wednesday and had it open by Thursday evening.

It contained a pay stub dating back to the 1920s and a wine label from a California winery.

Ammazzini told WMAR2: "Out of all the safes I've cracked, only one had stuff inside and that was just paperwork."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Laura Meckler on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Laura Meckler, author of Dream Town: Shaker Heights and the Quest for Racial Equity (Holt, $31.99, 9781250834416).

Good Morning America: Dr. Jag Singh, author of Future Care: Sensors, Artificial Intelligence, and the Reinvention of Medicine (Mayo Clinic Press, $27.99, 9781945564253).

TV: The Fall of the House of Usher

Netflix released first images from and announced an October 12 premiere date for The Fall of the House of Usher, its eight-episode limited series from Mike Flanagan. Deadline reported that in the project, based on Edgar Allan Poe's classic story, "ruthless siblings Roderick and Madeline Usher have built Fortunato Pharmaceuticals into an empire of wealth, privilege and power. But past secrets come to light when the heirs to the Usher dynasty start dying at the hands of a mysterious woman from their youth."

Starring Bruce Greenwood, the cast also includes Carla Gugino, Mary McDonnell, Carl Lumbly, Mark Hamill, Michael Trucco, T'Nia Miller, Paola Nuñez, Henry Thomas, Kyleigh Curran, Samantha Sloyan, Rahul Kohli, Kate Siegel, Sauriyan Sapkota, Zach Gilford, Willa Fitzgerald, Katie Parker, Malcolm Goodwin, Crystal Balint, Aya Furukawa, Daniel Jun, Matt Biedel, Ruth Codd, Annabeth Gish, Igby Rigney, and Robert Longstreet.

Flanagan created and serves as director with Michael Fimognari. Intrepid Pictures' Trevor Macy and Flanagan executive produce with Emmy Grinwis and Fimognari.

Books & Authors

Awards: RNA's Joan Hessayon Winner

Katy Turner won the £1,000 (about $1,265) Romantic Novelists' Association's Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers for her debut novel, Let's Just Be Friends. The prize is for authors whose novels have gone through the RNA's New Writers' Scheme and are subsequently accepted for publication.

The judges were unanimous in their decision. Pia Fenton (who writes as Christina Courtenay) said the winning book "is a lovely story of perseverance against the odds and the importance of friendships, all set against the fabulous backdrop of the north Scottish coast. The story drew me in, with a wonderful meet-cute, great chemistry between the hero and heroine, and a perfect ending." Hannah Schofield said Let's Just Be Friends featured "all the ingredients we'd hoped to find: swoony love interests, a diverse and well-realised cast, and a beautifully evocative setting (plus: cute animals)! I'm sure Katy has a brilliant writing career ahead of her."

RNA chair and prize judge Jean Fullerton commented: "As a graduate of the scheme myself, I'm thrilled each year to see members of the New Writers' Scheme publish their first novel. As always, choosing a Joan Hessayon winner from such a fabulous crop of books has been an almost impossible task, as this year's entrants in the awards were all cracking page-turning reads. Well done to all of you, and especially to our winner, Katy Turner."

Book Review

Review: Artificial: A Love Story

Artificial: A Love Story by Amy Kurzweil (Catapult, $38 hardcover, 368p., 9781948226387, October 17, 2023)

Cartoonist Amy Kurzweil (Flying Couch) returns to graphic memoir with Artificial: A Love Story, a thought-provoking examination of family and identity, artificial intelligence, and the nature of creativity. Kurzweil breaks the narrative into eight distinct sections, each with its own title and epigraph, but before the first section is a two-page spread of two linear strips.

These introductory strips extend beyond the page, giving the impression of time and events before and after those depicted. Kurzweil is present in each segment, and in each, the artist's father, famed futurist and writer Ray Kurzweil, asks the same important question: "Hey, Amy. What's the meaning of life?" Kurzweil's appearance--and her answer--changes slightly over the course of the panels, but in the final sequence, she leaves the question unanswered.

The narrative itself focuses on three main components: Amy Kurzweil's relationship with her partner, Jacob; Ray Kurzweil's effort to reanimate his father, Fred Kurzweil, through an AI chatbot built from his father's writing; and Fred, a pianist and conductor whose musical talent made possible his escape from the Nazis and passage to the United States. All three generations are remarkably creative, and all three are what Kurzweil calls "documenters," those who strive to hold on to information and make sense of it. Of her father, Kurzweil says, "he became an inventor not only to record human affairs, but to change them. As he says, every question needs an answer; and every problem, a solution." With his work in computer science and the Singularity ("a period of profound cultural and evolutionary change in which computers will outthink the brain and allow people... to live forever"), Ray Kurzweil knows plenty about changing human affairs and answering impossible questions, and readers will be intrigued with this timely and fascinating look behind the scenes. But even those with little interest in AI will connect with the desire to feel known and loved, across time and distance and even across generations.

Like the algorithm driving her grandfather's chatbot, Kurzweil incorporates snippets of text (articles, interviews, journal entries, e-mails) as she sifts through three generations of memories, and through it all, she asks excellent questions: What remains of a person once they've died? Is language enough? What is the meaning of life? In this case, Kurzweil may disagree with her father, arguing that some questions might not be answerable, just as "None of us are fully knowable. But with time and attention, with close looking, we are all loveable." Artificial is a wide-ranging and intellectual memoir, one that insists on the growth that comes through uncertainty. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

Shelf Talker: Artificial: A Love Story uses thought-provoking concepts of artificial intelligence and machine learning to explore big issues: family and identity and the nature of creativity.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Crossed by Emily McIntire
2. Twisted Love by Ana Huang
3. Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton
4. Twisted Games by Ana Huang
5. Hooked by Emily McIntire
6. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
7. The Fine Print by Lauren Asher
8. The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose
9. King of Wrath by Ana Huang
10. Twisted Hate by Ana Huang

[Many thanks to!]

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