Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, August 16, 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


Bookstore Sales Slip 0.7% in June

In June, bookstore sales dropped 0.7%, to $556 million, compared to June 2022, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates, the second monthly loss for bookstore sales this year. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, bookstore sales in June were down 7.9% from June 2019. For the first half of the year, bookstore sales are up 6.9%, to $3.9 billion, compared to the first half of 2022.

Total retail sales in June rose 1.8%, to $705.8 billion, compared to June 2022. For the year to date, total retail sales climbed 3.2%, to $4,043 billion, compared to the first half of 2022.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."

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

The Literary, Champaign, Ill., Adds Cafe

The Literary, a bookstore and bar in downtown Champaign, Ill., is adding a cafe, Smile Politely reported.

The Literary Cafe, opening today, serves coffee, tea, lemonade, and a variety of other drinks along with fresh pastries made by BakeLab in Urbana, Ill. In the next few weeks, the cafe will start serving food made in its own kitchen. Coffee service will run from opening to close.

Owner Jenny Shima opened the Literary in fall 2021. It sells a selection of new books and alcoholic beverages, and previously hosted Hopscotch Brunchette, which provided coffee, breakfast food, and more.

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

International Update: U.K. Hits £3 Million Profit Mark for Indies; Pre-Order Frenzy for Waterstones Title U.K. has generated £3 million (about $3.8 million) in profit since its launch for the 570 independent bookshops using the platform. The goal is to increase online sales for indies by five times over the next five years. "To achieve this, we're encouraging customers to continue to support independent bookshops through online sales--whether that is the shop's own e-commerce platform or via bolster the indies' portion of the online book market," the company noted.
Nicole Vanderbilt, managing director of U.K., said the company believes that the online book market "has many more opportunities to offer to independent booksellers--in a way, we've only helped them scratch the surface so far.... Bookshops are primed and ready on our platform, we need the book world to change their ways. We believe that a world where independent bookshops are successful businesses, with a robust online presence, is a better world for everyone."

Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland, commented: " has allowed many booksellers to operate online in ways they would not otherwise have been able to, and they have also become trusted, proactive and collegiate colleagues across the industry since set up in 2020. We congratulate them heartily and wish them well on the onward push to get more and more book lovers moving their book shopping away from Amazon, and toward high street bookshops and their online stores."

Sheryl Shurville, co-owner of the Chorleywood and Gerrards Cross Bookshops, called online sales through "a vital (and growing!) part of our business, contributing significantly to the services we offer to customers. One of our main aims is for our shop fronts to be the first port-of-call for readers wishing to shop online, connecting us with customers beyond the physical reach of our bricks-and-mortar shops. With this in mind, we anticipate doubling our online sales in the next three years."


Pre-order demand for the Waterstones exclusive edition of Jay Kristoff's upcoming novel Empire of the Damned (February 2024) temporarily disabled the company's website when going live on August 10, the Bookseller reported. The special edition features sprayed edges and is signed by the author. The first title in the series, The Empire of the Vampire, was shortlisted for the British Book Award for Fiction Book of the Year honors in 2022.

In an Instagram post, which was re-posted by Kristoff's U.K. publisher Harper Voyager, the author wrote: "I say it a lot, but not enough--I truly have the best readers in the world. Thank you for showing up for me time and time again, droogs. It means the world. I know these pre-order brawls can be frustrating for folks who got up early or stayed up late, but the @waterstones folks are working hard to restore service. Your enthusiasm is amazing and your patience is sincerely appreciated. So much love."

A Waterstones spokesperson commented: "It is always lovely to see true excitement for a book and we knew that the announcement of the Empire of the Damned Waterstones exclusive signed edition would be highly anticipated. Our website is very stable and regularly manages large amounts of traffic without any issues, but the concentrated enthusiasm among Jay Kristoff's fans... managed to temporarily affect operation.... Functionality was swiftly restored, and we are very pleased with the significant number of pre-orders placed and have increased our stock order to match the ongoing demand." 


BookPeople, the association for Australian bookshops, trained its Bookshop Spotlight on the Book Cellar, Campbell Town, Tasmania and co-owners Catherine Brunskill and Michael Roach. Among the highlights of the q&a:

What are some of your fondest experiences in the bookshop to date? 
One of the delights of operating from a small regional town in the middle of the smallest State is the ability to surprise customers when they walk into The Book Cellar and, to put it politely, aren't expecting too much. "Wow, this is amazing!" and "I can't believe I stumbled across this in the middle of Tassie!" Yes, we are a genuine bookshop business offering selected new, used and antiquarian titles in a remarkable setting, the 190 year old cellars of a convict-built Georgian coaching inn. We love welcoming back our irregular regular customers from interstate who have made us a must-do when on return visits to Tasmania for either business or pleasure. Over time we have established ourselves as the pre-eminent stockist of out of print Tasmanian books. --Robert Gray

ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall on Forbes 50 over 50: Impact List

Tracie D. Hall

American Library Association executive director Tracie D. Hall was recognized by Forbes magazine's third annual 50 over 50 list, which highlights "a group of people whose collective power--literally--stretches from the deep sea to outer space." 

Hall "is the first African American woman to [be executive director of] the American Library Association since its founding in 1876. With book bans on the rise in the United States, her job is more important than ever before," Forbes noted, adding that she "has a steadfast, around-the-clock approach to the work she is leading." (Clara Stanton Jones, an African American woman was president of the ALA 1976-1977.)

"Providing access to learning and information for all, that's our mission at the ALA, and today, those words have become fighting words," said Hall, putting an extra emphasis on the "for all" piece. "In response, we, as librarians, have moved to the frontlines of a battle that we didn't ask for."

The ALA has been tracking book bans for the last three decades, but when Hall took charge in 2020, her primary focus was on the Covid-19 pandemic, which was shutting down libraries across the world. "This near-constant siege from day one of Hall's tenure... is one of the reasons why Hall refers to her fellow librarians as 'warriors.' Her leadership through these twin crises is why she's earned a spot on the 2023 Forbes 50 Over 50: Impact list," Forbes wrote.

Hall is bolstering ALA's in-house legal resources and legal defense fund, pushing for policy change alongside political leaders and, earlier this year, launched a comprehensive Unite Against Book Bans initiative aimed at equipping everyday people to fight back against censorship in their own communities.

"It has all tested our capacity building, but ultimately, really tested our conviction in the belief that access to information is central to civic engagement and democratic participation," she observed of her work over the last three years. "This is the moment in which we have to assert the belief that freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to read--there's a reason they're part of our First Amendment rights. You don't get to personal protections [and] you don't get to a democracy unless you have the right to read.... I feel like history at some point is going to judge us. And I think that if we keep going in the way that we are, I think we as librarians will be on the right side of history."

Forbes's 2023 50 over 50: Lifestyle list recognized authors Judy Blume, Kristin Hannah, and Alka Joshi; and Grace Young was also named to the 50 over 50: Impact list.

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: Tombolo Books Kicks off Romance Celebrations

Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Fla., kicked off Bookstore Romance Day (Week) with a special Speed Dating with Books event. Booksellers Kelsey Jagneaux and Amanda Hurley were inspired by a reps pick session at Children's Institute last summer. Eight speed daters--booksellers and Tombolo book club hosts--presented to 60 readers their potential new book soulmates. Each had six minutes to chat up three or four of their current favorite books, and at the end of the evening each reader went home with (at least) one new book love. This was the store's third speed dating event and, said Hurley, it's "easily one of our community's favorite events." The event was hosted at local restaurant Good Intentions. 

Bookish Dating: Read It Again Bookstore

"I have a sweet story for you," Read It Again Bookstore, Suwanee, Ga., posted on Facebook. "Especially since Bookstore Romance Day is this Saturday. "Meet Brittany and Seth. When they were introduced through an app, they decided Read It Again would be a safe place to meet. So they came to the bookstore and spent an hour walking through our stacks, discovering their mutual love of books. They continued their date across the street at the pizza restaurant, where they spent the next 7 hours getting to know each other. That was a year ago. Now they come in regularly to flirt, talk about books, and relive their first date in the bookstore."

Preserving 'What Gets Left Behind in Used Books'

In a recent feature on Dickson Street Bookshop, Fayetteville, Ark., Garden & Gun magazine explored the shop's extensive collection of "items people have left behind in books they've sold to Dickson. They are forgotten things. They are lost things. They are misplaced things and discarded things. They are nightstand things grasped at blindly just before the light clicks off. They are the first thing that came to hand. Above all they are things that have been, by some strange transference, some strange alchemy, saddled with stories seeking to explain how they got here."

These artifacts often end up boxed in "time capsules" in the back of the store, where they "surface periodically, like a wooly mammoth frozen in a glacier, appearing behind, say, multivolume treatises on U.S. history, as boxes get shifted around, books, processed," Garden & Gun wrote, adding: "They are no different from the multitude of other boxes in the back of the shop, which have been stacked into walls, mountains, and shelving for other boxes.... There are no hints as to what they might contain, but a chance conversation with longtime employee John Peel, who was pricing books on a recent morning, hours before the shop opened, offers some insight."

For more than 30 years, "as untold numbers of boxes have entered Dickson, Peel has undertaken a subtle act of curation as he's priced books to be sold to customers, filling cardboard boxes with an impossibly eclectic range of items that even the most exhaustive list can't capture.... And then, when a box is filled, he tapes it up and begins another."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: R. Eric Thomas on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: R. Eric Thomas, author of Congratulations, the Best Is Over!: Essays (Ballantine, $27, 9780593496268).

Good Morning America: Billy Walters, author of Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk (Avid Reader Press/S&S, $35, 9781668032855).

Rachael Ray: Eloise Head, author of Fitwaffle's Baked in One: 100 Desserts Using Just One Pan (Weldon Owen, $27.50, 9798886740974).

Books & Authors

Awards: Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year Longlist

The longlist for the 2023 Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year Award has been announced. The shortlist will be announced September 21 and the winner December 4. The winner will receive £30,000 (about $38,175), and each runner up £10,000 ($12,725). To see the 15-title longlist, click here.

Reading with... Francisco X. Stork

Francisco X. Stork was born in Mexico. He moved to El Paso, Tex., with his adoptive father and mother when he was nine. Stork attended Spring Hill College, Harvard University, and Columbia Law School, then worked as an attorney for an affordable housing agency until his retirement in 2015. He is married with two grown children and four beautiful grandchildren. Stork loves to read books where the author's soul touches his own, and those are the kind of books he also tries to write. I Am Not Alone (Scholastic Press, available now) is his 10th novel.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

When Alberto is accused of a crime, Grace must decide whether to risk her brilliant future for the love blossoming in her heart.

On your nightstand now:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace; Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour; and A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I grew up in Mexico reading these comic books called Vidas Ilustres. They were biographies of "illustrious lives"--writers, scientists, explorers, military, and political leaders. I think the first full book that I read (in Spanish) was The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss quickly became one of my favorites, and I devoured all the books by Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas.

Your top five authors:

Miguel de Cervantes
Annie Dillard
Jorge Luis Borges
James Baldwin
Flannery O'Connor

Book you've faked reading:

Ulysses by James Joyce. Also, Finnegans Wake. (I feel very guilty about this.)

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. This is the book I re-read every couple of years, and the book I recommend to young people aspiring to be writers. It's a book about the life-long commitment that writing requires, and the connection between the author's spiritual and moral life and the work of writing.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. And the writing was even better than the cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

My mother was a single mother who was an avid reader of romance novels written by Spanish and Latin American writers. Often, when finishing a book, she'd say, "Now I need to go to confession." I never felt I needed to hide anything I was reading from her. No book was without some kind of merit in her eyes.

Book that changed your life:

When I was a teenager, reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez filled me with pride that a Latin American writer could write so beautifully. It inspired me to dedicate my life to the work of writing with truth and beauty. The book and its amazing Spanish rhythms also work as a wonderful spark for me, which ignites creativity when words and images are not flowing.

Favorite line from a book:

"Sometimes like the Barbie doll, you need to give people something that is for them, not just something that makes you feel good giving it."

Jesse Aarons contemplating a gift for his little sister. From Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

Five books you'll never part with:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
The Living by Annie Dillard

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

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I'd like to read this carefully to see how he seamlessly weaves fragments of reality and thoughts together.

The most important thing you learned from a book:

Courage. Books have given me strength to go on and do what needs to be done when it did not seem possible to do so. The most important thing I've learned from a book is not a concept or an idea or a belief--it is the strength that comes from the bond with author and characters.

Book Review

Children's Review: A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods by Nikki Grimes, illus. by Jerry Pinkney and Brian Pinkney (Neal Porter Books, $18.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780823449651, September 12, 2023)

The joy in discovering that three greats of children's literature--Nikki Grimes (a recipient of the 2022 Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award), 2010 Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney, and 2000 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award-winner Brian Pinkney--collaborated on a picture book is tempered only by the fact that one of them is gone. Jerry Pinkney had created initial sketches for Grimes's tender and evocative picture book text, A Walk in the Woods. Brian Pinkney writes in a closing note that he began to complete the illustrations "just weeks after the passing of my beloved father," by adding watercolors (with a digital assist from his niece, illustrator Charnelle Pinkney Barlow).

As a reminder that life often imitates art, the story is about a boy grieving the death of his father. The child discovers a note his father left for him suggesting he take a walk in the woods to find "treasure." The boy, who struggles with anger over the loss, wonders why his father would suggest he go alone: "the woods were our place." To his surprise, the treasure that awaits him is a metal box, filled with "sketches of life on and above the forest floor," each one accompanied by an "unfinished story." The boy realizes that these pieces of art were made by his father when he was the age the boy is now.

Though this discovery brings the boy comfort (he feels as if his father is with him, and his "heart feels lighter, too"), it is the trek through the woods that provides much-needed peace. Spotting Sal the garter snake at the start of his journey reminds the boy to "Slow down! Pay attention!"--as if the woods are reminding him that working through grief will take time. Grimes captures the woods' sensory delights with precision and lyricism: it's the "soft song" of a Carolina wren; the "explosion of flight" that is an eagle spreading its wings; and the "quiet" of the woods that console the boy. With each step he takes, "the hurt inside my heart pounds less, and less." To see Jerry's sketches lit by Brian's dazzling colors (many spreads shine with gleaming golden yellows) and swirling lines is wondrous. The eagle spread and one depicting an "ancient stone water storage house left centuries ago by a tribe of the Mohican Nation" are breathtaking studies in light and movement. This exceptional story stands as a moving account of a Black boy finding solace in nature--but also serves as a marvelous tribute to Jerry Pinkney. --Julie Danielson, reviewer and copy editor

Shelf Talker: This moving and lyrical account of a Black boy finding solace in nature combines the remarkable talents of three greats of children's literature. 

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