Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 28, 2023

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Indigo to Open 'Total Lifestyle Emporium' in Toronto

Indigo Books & Music, the Canadian bookstore and lifestyle chain that has had a turbulent year, is opening a 16,000-square-foot store in Toronto this fall that it says will be "a radically different shopping experience [that] marks an evolution for the brand." The store will have "a unique eye-candy environment, centered on an edited selection of Indigo's curated assortment of books, with a new heightened focus on lifestyle products and in-store experiences."

Rendering of the new Indigo design by Dalziel and Pow.

The new store will include a vinyl record shop with a jukebox and books; a gourmet coffee truck; a plant shop with "live plants, pots, and books"; and "immersive shoppable product vignettes." The "new urban concept store" will be located in the King West neighborhood at the Well, a mix of shops, restaurants, a fresh food market, workspaces, and residences.

Indigo CEO Peter Ruis said, "We know our customers love the current Indigo stores, but we also know the world is changing and people are craving more meaningful experiences that get them closer to their passions. We are thrilled to offer our customers an elevated experience that is much more than a shop. This will be a destination and social meeting place, celebrating the best of what Indigo does; Books, Music, Fashion and Culture--it will be a total lifestyle emporium."

In the past year, founder Heather Reisman stepped down as CEO and is retiring; four board members abruptly resigned; Indigo suffered a severe ransomeware attack; and the company lost US$37.5 million in the fiscal year ending April 1, in part because of the attack.

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Lydah Pyles DeBin Named Executive Director of the Center for Fiction

Lydah Pyles DeBin

Lydah Pyles DeBin has been named executive director of the Center for Fiction, Brooklyn, N.Y., the literary nonprofit that offers a range of programming, reading and writing workshops, fellowships, awards, and the Bookstore and Café and Bar. It was founded in 1821 as the Mercantile Library of New York in Manhattan. DeBin has been deputy director of Literary Arts, Portland, Ore., since 2017. She succeeds interim co-executive directors Leslie Griesbach Schultz and Betsy Smulyan, who took those roles in January after the departure of prior executive director Traci Lester.

The Center for Fiction said that "DeBin's passion for fiction has guided her career, first as a national accounts manager for Penguin Young Readers Group, Simon & Schuster, and Random House and then as a leader at Literary Arts. During her Literary Arts tenure--first as director of development and marketing before rising to deputy director--the organization became the fastest-growing literary nonprofit in the Pacific Northwest, with DeBin's aptitude for fundraising fueling revenue growth each year. She has been a key driver of deep strategic planning focused on resource development for a sustainable, inclusive, and bold vision for a thriving creative community."

Board chair Erroll McDonald commented: "Extraordinary for her firmness of purpose, judicious temperament, and bright charisma, Lydah Pyles DeBin is poised to lead the Center for Fiction to new heights as its next executive director. Throughout her career, Lydah has earned the respect of her colleagues for her vision, integrity, and  team building. The board is confident that her impressive suite of talents and skills will inform the Center's continued efflorescence."

DeBin added: "I thank the community for trusting me to be a partner in leadership as we work together to uncover what will be next for this vital institution. During the search process, I met a staff and board who are dedicated to the Center's mission and passionate about fiction's ability to foster empathy, curiosity, connection, and discussion. I feel enormous excitement about what we can build together."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Don't Worry!: Boston Booksellers' Book

I AM Books, the bookstore in Boston's North End with an Italian accent, is publishing its first book: Don't Worry!, by store founder Nicola Orichuia, illustrated by Carla Dipasquale, a bookseller at I AM Books. Don't Worry! is "a story of community, friendship and family," and is set in the North End, where a girl named Nina sets off on an urban adventure to collect ingredients for a surprise birthday cake. She takes along her pet turtle Connie, but not everything goes as planned. With the help from the community around her, Nina ends up with an unexpected surprise.

To cover production costs, I AM Books has launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $15,000 that as of this morning has raised $4,000; it features rewards such as a limited edition stuffed animal, tote bags, and stickers. The book will be a hardcover, distributed by Ingram, I AM Books, and Tartuca Books, the store's imprint for the book.

Orichuia said, "We see this book as a first building block. From this book and its characters, we want to start a publishing company that can find its own voice and space in the illustrated children's book market. We chose the 'tartuca' (turtle in Sicilian dialect) as our symbol, because we want to return to a slower, artisanal way of making things. In general, we see 'slowness' as a virtue, a quality that often is looked down upon these days. But you need time and a 'slow' mindset to read a book, especially if you're reading a book to children."

Obituary Note: Ed Ochester

Ed Orchester

Ed Ochester, poet, teacher, and longtime series editor of the University of Pittsburgh's Pitt Poetry Series, died last Tuesday, August 22. He was 83.

Ochester joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1970, chairing the creative writing program for more than two decades and serving as editor of the Pitt Poetry Series from 1978 to 2021. When Ochester inherited the series, he sought to broaden the scope of American poetry, publishing women poets, poets of color, and queer poets at a time when there was little diversity to be found in poetry publishing. Ochester became a driving force of American poetry, working with poets Richard Blanco, Ross Gay, Reginald Shepherd, and Jan Beatty. Under his leadership, books in the series have won or been finalists for such prizes as the National Book Award, the National Books Critic Circle Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. At the University of Pittsburgh Press, Ochester established the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize in 1981 and was the editor of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize.

He also wrote more than a dozen collections of poetry, including Sugar Run Road, Unreconstructed: Poems Selected and New, The Land of Cockaigne, Cooking in Key West, and Changing the Name to Ochester. His work has won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts. For his contributions to the arts, he received the George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature in 2006, and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Creative Achievement Award in 2001. He twice served as the president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and was on the faculty of the Bennington College MFA Writing Seminars for more than a decade following his retirement from Pitt. He was also a cofounder of the poetry journal 5AM.

The current series editors of the Pitt Poetry Series--Terrance Hayes, Nancy Krygowski, and Jeffrey McDaniel--said, "As the new Pitt Poetry Series editors, having taken up Ed's role this past spring, we will be doubling our efforts to bring attention to all Ed Ochester did for us, Pitt poets, and contemporary poetry. His role in the career of poets such as Sharon Olds, Toi Derricotte, Billy Collins, Etheridge Knight, and countless others makes him easily one of the most significant poetry editors of the last 50 years."


Image of the Day: McPhail and Friends at An Unlikely Story

An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass., hosted author/illustrator David McPhail (Truffle: A Dog (and Cat) Story; Bugle Boy Press) for an afternoon storytelling session. Afterward, McPhail posed with event manager Kym Havens and Truffle the dog.

National [Bookseller] Dog Day: Copper Dog Books

"Happy National Dog Day to the Copper Dog Pack!" Copper Dog Books, Beverly, Mass., posted on Facebook Saturday. "In order, meet: Luna the genderless hairless bearded rat dog reading First Sister in their pocket dimension; Jessie and her totally 100% real, 26 year-old St. Bernard puppy, Moe, reading Boys in the Valley, a story that 100% will keep both of them up all night; Tasha the nervous wreck tucked into Game On while on vacation!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dan Buettner on Good Morning America

Today Show: Jason Reynolds, author of Stuntboy, In-Between Time (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, $14.99, 9781534418226).

Also on Today: Colleen Hoover, author of Heart Bones: A Novel (Atria, $17.99, 9781668021910).

Good Morning America: Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer: Lessons From the Healthiest Places on Earth (National Geographic, $32.50, 9781426223471).

Also on GMA: Jennifer Weiner, author of The Breakaway: A Novel (Atria, $28.99, 9781668033425).

CBS Mornings: Matthew A. Cherry, author, and Vashti Harrison, illustrator, of Hair Love ABCs (Kokila, $8.99, 9780593695647).

Movies: Cat Person

The first trailer has been released for the "darkly comedic dating thriller" Cat Person, based on Kristen Roupenian's viral New Yorker short story, Deadline reported, adding that the film, which premiered "to much buzz at Sundance back in January," is set to open in U.S. theaters via Rialto Pictures beginning October 6.

Starring Emilia Jones (CODA) and Nicholas Braun (Succession), the project's cast also features Geraldine Viswanathan, Hope Davis, Michael Gandolfini, Liza Koshy, Fred Melamed, Isaac Powell, Isabella Rossellini, and Donald Elise Watkins. It was scripted by Michelle Ashford.

Cat Person was directed by Susanna Fogel, who had said earlier this year that "the idea of toggling back and forth between the POVs of her protagonists was compelling, in that it allowed her to explore 'miscommunications and the cultural baggage that men and women bring into dating,' particularly in our post-#MeToo moment," Deadline wrote.

Books & Authors

Awards: Ackerley Shortlist

The shortlist has been announced for the £3,000 (about $3,775) 2023 Ackerley Prize, formerly known as the PEN Ackerley Prize, honoring memoir and autobiography. The winner will be announced September 28 during an event at the London Review Bookshop. The shortlist:

Thunderstone by Nancy Campbell
A Waiter in Paris by Edward Chisholm
Dandelions by Thea Lenarduzzi

Book Review

Review: Bournville

Bournville by Jonathan Coe (Europa Editions, $28 hardcover, 400p., 9781609459420, October 17, 2023)

The years since the end of World War II have brought dramatic change to Great Britain, and historians have devoted considerable attention to that sometimes painful period of transition. It's left to a talented writer like Jonathan Coe (The Rotter's Club; Mr. Wilder and Me) to assess the emotional impact of those societal shifts on the lives of ordinary people, and that's what he's done with great depth of feeling in his novel Bournville.

Coe's story--bracketed by a prologue and a concluding chapter set during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic--revolves around the family of Mary Lamb, born in 1934 in the eponymous section of Birmingham, a village "dreamed into being by chocolate," after it was constructed as a place to house workers at the principal production facility for Cadbury chocolate in the late 19th century. Mary, a teacher, and her husband, Geoffrey--who trades his university Classics major for a modest career in banking--raise their three sons there, but the tranquil environment doesn't shield them from the social and economic change unfolding in their homeland.

In addition to VE Day and the coronavirus, the lives of the Lamb family and their offspring play out against the background of four set pieces involving Britain's royal family--the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the investiture of Prince Charles, the prince's wedding to Diana Spencer, and her tragic death in 1997--and England's epic victory over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup. Along with their fellow Britons, the Lambs experience these events with widely contrasting degrees of engagement, exhibiting a variety of views on issues, like economics and race, that reflect their homeland's diversity. Coe touches only glancingly on the 2016 Brexit vote, but he prefigures that controversy with the story of the "chocolate war," when Mary's son Martin, a Cadbury's marketing executive, travels to Brussels to battle representatives of the continental European countries who want to ban the import of his company's product, claiming its vegetable fat deprives it of the status of real chocolate.

The novel's final section is a moving account of life during the initial phase of the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020. Isolated in the home she's dwelled in for more than half a century, the widowed Mary has conversations with her loved ones that are confined to screens that, as her son Peter, a talented musician, laments, "have forced us apart and they tease us with ways to communicate which are pale imitations, sometimes mere parodies, of real human contact."

Summing up her long union to Geoffrey, Mary modestly observes that "we've been happy, on the whole, we've rubbed along together very well." That's also an apt description of how this one deeply imagined family, if not necessarily all their fellow citizens, have navigated the epochal changes of 75 years in the nation's life. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Jonathan Coe delivers a moving survey of the history of post-war Great Britain through the well-imagined story of one ordinary family.

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