Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 5, 2023


Mariner Books: Everyone This Christmas Has a Secret: A Festive Mystery by Benjamin Stevenson

Grove Press: Brightly Shining by Ingvild Rishøi, Translated Caroline Waight

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Broadleaf Books: Trespass: Portraits of Unhoused Life, Love, and Understanding by Kim Watson

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

News

Norwegian Author Jon Fosse Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Jon Fosse

The 2023 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded today to Norwegian author Jon Fosse for his "innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable," the Swedish Academy announced. "His immense oeuvre written in Norwegian Nynorsk and spanning a variety of genres consists of a wealth of plays, novels, poetry collections, essays, children's books and translations. While he is today one of the most widely performed playwrights in the world, he has also become increasingly recognised for his prose...

"In common with his great precursor in Nynorsk literature Tarjei Vesaas, Fosse combines strong local ties, both linguistic and geographic, with modernist artistic techniques. He includes in his Wahlverwandschaften such names as Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard and Georg Trakl. While Fosse shares the negative outlook of his predecessors, his particular gnostic vision cannot be said to result in a nihilistic contempt of the world. Indeed, there is great warmth and humour in his work, and a naïve vulnerability to his stark images of human experience."

Fosse, who receives 11 million Swedish krona (about $990,000), has written more than 40 plays, novels, short stories, children's books, poetry, and essays. The Academy said that Fosse's "magnum opus in prose" is Septology, which he completed in 2021 and was published in several volumes. "Extending to 1,250 pages, the novel is written in the form of a monologue in which an elderly artist speaks to himself as another person. The work progresses seemingly endlessly and without sentence breaks, but is formally held together by repetitions, recurring themes and a fixed time span of seven days. Each of its parts opens with the same phrase and concludes with the same prayer to God." A New Name: Septology VI-VII was a finalist last year for the National Book Awards, the National Book Critics Circle Awards, and the International Booker Prize. It, as well as the complete Septology, was published in the U.S. by Transit Books. (Transit Books is publishing Fosse's A Shining this month.)

Another key work is Trilogy (2016), "a cruel saga of love and violence with strong Biblical allusions, [which] is set in the barren coastal landscape where almost all of Fosse's fiction takes place." It was published in the U.S. by Dalkey Archive Press.

Fosse's debut novel Red, Black (1983) is, the Academy said, "as rebellious as it was emotionally raw, broached the theme of suicide and, in many ways, set the tone for his later work."


Peachtree Teen: Compound Fracture by Andrew Joseph White


James Patterson's Holiday Bookstore Bonus Program Returns

James Patterson

James Patterson is once again supporting independent booksellers through his Holiday Bookstore Bonus Program. This year the bestselling author has increased his contribution, pledging $300,000 to be distributed in $500 increments to 600 booksellers from ABA member bookstores.

Nominations can be made through an online nomination form that asks the question: "In 250 words or less, why does this bookseller deserve a holiday bonus?" The deadline to nominate is November 15. 

"We are all so grateful for Mr. Patterson’s ongoing support of independent booksellers," said ABA CEO Allison Hill. "His generosity is incredible, and his recognition of booksellers and the valuable role they play in the industry is especially meaningful to us."

Booksellers can self-nominate to be considered for a bonus, or they can be nominated by bookstore customers, owners, employees, managers, fellow booksellers, publishing professionals, or authors. Past recipients of James Patterson bonuses and grants are eligible for another bonus. The names of those nominating won't be made public and won't be revealed to the nominees. 

Stores can share information about the program on social media, in-store, and on the store's website, and encourage customers to nominate booksellers. Nominees must be currently employed by an ABA member bookstore. The bonuses, announced in Bookselling This Week and on BookWeb, will be distributed in December.  


Inner Traditions: Expand your collection with these must-have resource books!


Big Red Books, Nyack, N.Y., Holds Ribbon-cutting Ceremony

Big Red Books hosted its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony this week at 120 Main St., Nyack, N.Y. Owner Richard Fulco was joined by Roger Cohen of the Chamber of Congress, Mayor Don Hammond, and Mayor-elect Joe Rand to launch the bookshop.

Located in a 700-square-foot space, the bookstore had its soft opening September 2. Fulco, a writer who formerly taught English at the Hudson School in Hoboken, told the Rockland County Business Journal last spring that opening a bookshop was his lifelong dream and he was aiming to have the store offer "personal service, knowledge of books, a human experience where along with a bookseller one enters the magical kingdom of letters and the written word."

Fulco had been researching bookselling, working in bookshops, and envisioning a day when he'd have a bookstore of his own. "I was walking down the street and saw the spot," he recalled. "It called out to me. I don't mean to sound too new age-y, it just spoke to me." He signed a three-year lease.

The shop's name refers to a big red couch Fulco and his partner share in their home. The bookstore also has a red couch. He plans to stock the shelves with a variety of genres, but "understands that bookstores are community hubs and that bookstores need to be more than just, well, stores that sell books. He's planning on readings, workshops for teens, getting involved with schools' book fairs. Eventually he hopes to open the backyard to use as a gathering place where coffee is served," RCBJ wrote.

"We are looking to be part of the community," said Fulco at the time. "People want to go back to mom-and-pop shops where there is a personal touch. Where you can talk to someone who knows about books, where you can browse. Where it's personal."


NEIBA Children's Author and Illustrator Breakfast

The New England Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference's children's author and illustrator breakfast was held yesterday morning and featured five authors and illustrators of picture book, middle-grade, and YA titles.

Kylie Lee Baker

Kylie Lee Baker, whose third YA book, The Scarlet Alchemist (Harlequin), was published just the day before, spoke about growing up with a love of and appreciation for independent bookstores. "It's still surreal to me that I get to go to indie bookstores as an author," she said. And now, "in this time of book bans, I am acutely aware of how important the work of booksellers is." Baker understands, she said, that her books "don't end up in hands by accident... they succeed because of booksellers who believe in their importance." One of the aspects of The Scarlet Alchemist that is particularly important to her is the protagonist's background: "For this book, it was very important to me to write a character who didn't see her financial background as something to overcome." Working-class "kids deserve to see themselves as heroes, too."

Michael Datcher and Frank Morrison

Michael Datcher and Frank Morrison spoke next, taking turns to address the audience about their picture book collaboration, Harlem at Four (Random House Studio). Datcher, an author of adult books such as Raising Fences (Riverhead Books) and Americus (Third World Press), said that he wrote this book for his daughter. While at home one day, Datcher heard noises from the other room and asked his daughter what she was doing. "I don't think I should tell you," she responded. After some prodding, she finally admitted what she had been up to: throwing his books across the room. They were "trash," she said, because not one of them had any pictures in it. Harlem at Four was a surprise gift to her: "I wanted to write her a book that she'd be able to read and enjoy." Morrison, the illustrator of the picture book, greeted the audience with his signature energy and warmth. "Three years ago, I said I was going to retire from the picture book world," he said. But then he got a call from Datcher. (After, he admitted, Random House had already set the two up on the project.) "When you meet the man, and you get that chemistry? I had no choice."

Raj Halder

Rapper and kids' book author Raj Haldar (also known as Lushlife) discussed his recently released This Book Is Banned (Sourcebooks Explore), a fourth-wall-breaking picture book. "I have a secret" he started. "I'm not a children's book author." But it wasn't that big of a step, Haldar said, between rapping and writing: "I love words and wordplay." After his debut picture book P Is for Pterodactyl (Sourcebooks Explore) went viral--"Like, properly viral"--"something really unexpected happened. I started getting messages from people around the country. People who wanted to take my book off of school and library shelves." This response placed Haldar on the path to This Book Is Banned. A few years, the pandemic, and becoming a father led him to the book. "I wanted to make an entry point for kids about the danger of book bans and censorship. I hope this book can be used to spark conversations with young people and in your bookstores."

Donna Barba Higuera

Newbery Medal winner (The Last Cuentista) Donna Barba Higuera closed the morning event by talking about Alebrijes (Levine Querido) her just-published middle-grade book that she calls a "hopeful apocalypse." The Last Cuentista, she said, was always meant to be a stand-alone title. But Higuera couldn't stop thinking about what would happen to the people Cuentista had left behind on Earth--what was a society "that survived 400 years after an apocalyptic event" like? She mulled this over. "What do you do if banishment is a punishment?" Higuera thought. "What do you do if a child needs to be punished?" Then Higuera, who works in healthcare, was driving to work one morning during the Covid-19 lockdown. The world looked apocalyptic, and she heard a report on NPR about drones being built in the shape of birds. The book came into focus. "It's a super creepy idea," she said, "but I think kids can handle it." It's a book about "finding the power within. Knowing that... not all of us are brave all the time." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


#Banned Books Week: 'We Wish Banning Books Wasn't a Thing, But It Is and It's Getting Worse'

#BannedBooksWeek is underway, and indie booksellers nationwide are posting photos, book picks and opinions on their social media channels. We're sharing a selection of them, including:

At Norwich Bookstore

Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, Vt.: "It's Banned Books Week! We wish banning books wasn't a thing, but it is and it's getting worse."

Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.: "It's #BannedBooksWeek, and this year it's more crucial than ever to support the freedom to read.... Join Ann [Patchett] in supporting MoveOn's work to combat book bans across the country by getting your very own LeVar Burton Says Read Banned Books T-Shirt! And while you're at it, grab a banned or challenged book you haven't read yet."

Bookstore at Fitger's, Duluth, Minn.: "All of us at Fitger's Bookstore are celebrating Banned Books Week!! Every day of the week will highlight a different bookseller, their bright smiling faces, and their favorite banned books in an effort to stand against the constant challenges and bans on these books by uplifting and championing ones that we enjoy for one reason or another."

At Books & Burrow

Books & Burrow, Pittsburg, Kan.: "This week is #BannedBooksWeek and I'm featuring some of the Native/Indigenous books that are banned or have been challenged! For more information, please visit the American Indians in Children's Literature blogspot!"

Inklings Bookshop, Lakeland, Fla.: "Caution, Caution. Banned Books have taken over the store! We have pins, stickers, and bookmarks!!!"

Lark & Owl Booksellers, Georgetown, Tex.: "It's the beginning of banned books week! And the magic of being an independent bookstore is knowing we can curate spaces to celebrate voices that are being minimized. We can choose books that amplify the people who don't typically get to be seen in mainstream bookstores."

Source Booksellers, Detroit, Mich.: "We started our day out today celebrating #bannedbooksweek in Colts Country at Detroit's Northwestern High School. We talked about Banned Books and the challenges to Amanda Gorman's The Hill We Climb with the Senior class. Thanks to a generous donation we give each student a copy of the book. We hope the words of book will touch lives of the talented students we meet."

Bookmarx, Springfield, Mo.: "It's Banned Book Week. Did you know that the Library holds a monthly book club at Bookmarx to discuss frequently banned and challenged books? Come discuss these upcoming books."

At Wildflower Bookshop

Wildflower Bookshop, Grand Rapids, Minn.: "Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor libraries and schools."

River Lights Bookstore, Dubuque, Iowa: "Thanks to today's readers for showing their support during banned books week!"

Betty's Books, Webster Groves, Mo.: "What's scarier than banning books?! Our front table celebrates titles that have been banned or challenged, and is (we hope) a step toward resisting this regressive movement."

Baldwin & Company, New Orleans, La.: "Baldwin & Co. Foundation 501c3 nonprofit will host an [Un]ban Book Festival in partnership with @penguinrandomhouse, @nolabookfest, & @willajeanneworleans to give out over 700 books that have been 'banned' for FREE!"

Books Inc., which has 11 stores in the Bay Area, Calif.: "Here at Books Inc. we believe reading allows us to consider a multitude of perspectives, and opens us up to the incredible assortment of thoughts, ideas, and identities that surround us. So read a banned book this week. Support and give love to your community. And remember, the power of literature will prevail."


Obituary Note: Khaled Khalifa

Khaled Khalifa

Syrian author, poet and screenwriter Khaled Khalifa, "who was one of Syria's most acclaimed contemporary novelists, though his six novels were banned in the country," died September 30, the Guardian reported. He was 59. Khalifa's novels were set in Aleppo and memorialized a city ruined by civil war.

"A poet of a single city, and through it a nation, his commitment to his homeland, to interrogating its history and inviting his readers to feel that history, was remarkable," said Alex Bowler, publisher at Faber, the U.K. publisher of Khalifa's work. "This was coupled with his steadfast commitment to the freedoms and power of literature, despite the censorship and suppression he encountered. Because of this he leaves a body of work that will last. But it cannot diminish today from the pure sadness we feel at his sudden passing."

Author Layla AlAmmar posted on social media: "What a loss for Arab literature. Khaled Khalifa was a giant and had so much more left to give."

"He leaves books that will be read so long as there are Syrians," added writer Robin Yassin-Kassab

Khalifa's first published novel, Haris al-Khadi'a (The Guard of Deception), came out in 1993. He published a second book in 2000, but it was his third, In Praise of Hatred (2006), that brought him international attention. It was shortlisted for the 2008 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and was translated into English by Leri Price, who would translate three further Khalifa novels. 

His fourth novel, No Knives in the Kitchens of This City, won the Naguib Mahfouz Literature Prize in 2013. It was also shortlisted for the International prize for Arabic Fiction. Khalifa's fifth book, Death Is Hard Work, was a National Book Award finalist for translated literature in 2019.

His sixth novel, No One Prayed over Their Graves, was published this year and has been longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature.

Khalifa was also an accomplished screenwriter. His first screenplay, The Story of Al-Jalali, was released as a TV series directed by Haitham Hakki. Rainbow, City Folks, and Relative Quietness followed, the latter focusing on the experiences of Arab journalists during the Iraq war, the Guardian noted.


Notes

Image of the Day: Windows and Mirrors

The New England Children's Bookselling Advisory Council held its annual meeting on Tuesday at the NEIBA fall conference in Providence, R.I.. NECBA co-chair Read Davidson of the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., announced that Sara Waltuck of Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Mass., will be taking over zir place, joining Kinsey Foreman of High Five Books, Florence, Mass., as co-chair of NECBA. Also at the meeting, eight of the 11 members of NECBA's Windows and Mirrors award committee (pictured here) announced the 2023 shortlist of titles. Since 2015, this committee has focused on highlighting diverse and inclusive titles, this year with both a 20-title shortlist and 40(ish)-title longlist. In addition to physical resources like bookmarks and award stickers, the committee has also made digital and social media assets available. Back row (l.-r.): Read Davidson; Kinsey Foreman; Sara Waltuck; Laure Dennery Colodner, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass.; Tildy Lutts, Belmont Books, Belmont, Mass.; Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, Mass.; front row (l.-r.): Kaitee Tredway, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury, Conn.; Kimi Loughlin, The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, Acton, Mass.


S&S to Distribute Hampton Creek Press

Simon & Schuster will handle worldwide sales and distribution for Hampton Creek Press, effective November 1.

Hampton Creek Press was founded in 1971 as the distribution arm for independently published titles by author J.D. Barker. It has since grown to include a diverse stable of authors primarily in the thriller and horror genres. Barker's forthcoming novel, Behind a Closed Door, set to release on February 19, 2024, will be the first title under this new relationship.


Personnel Changes at St. Martin's Publishing Group

At St. Martin's Publishing Group:

Kathryn Hough Boutross has been promoted to senior publicity manager.

Sophia Lauriello has been promoted to senior publicist.

Sara Beth Haring has been promoted to senior marketing manager.

Rivka Holler has been promoted to associate marketing manager.

Austin Adams has been promoted to marketing coordinator.

Alex Hoopes has been promoted to senior manager, social media platforms.

Julia Sudusky has been promoted to coordinator, social media content.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Keegan-Michael Key and Elle Key on Live with Kelly and Mark

Tomorrow:
Live with Kelly and Mark: Keegan-Michael Key and Elle Key, authors of The History of Sketch Comedy: A Journey through the Art and Craft of Humor (Chronicle, $29.95, 9781797216836).


This Weekend on Book TV: Mitchell Zuckoff on The Secret Gate

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, October 7
5:35 p.m. John C. McManus, author of To the End of the Earth: The US Army and the Downfall of Japan, 1945 (Dutton Caliber, $35, 9780593186886). (Re-airs Sunday at 5:35 a.m.)

Sunday, October 8
9:05 a.m. Anupam B. Jena and Christopher Worsham, authors of Random Acts of Medicine: The Hidden Forces That Sway Doctors, Impact Patients, and Shape Our Health (Doubleday, $30, 9780385548816). (Re-airs Sunday at 9:05 p.m.)

10 a.m. Melissa Kearney, author of The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind (University of Chicago Press, $25, 9780226817781). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

2 p.m. Chad L. Williams, author of The Wounded World: W.E.B. Du Bois and the First World War (‎Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30, 9780374293154), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

3:05 p.m. Mitchell Zuckoff, author of The Secret Gate: A True Story of Courage and Sacrifice During the Collapse of Afghanistan (Random House, $28.99, 9780593594841), at Harvard Book Store.

4:10 p.m. Sohrab Ahmari, author of Tyranny, Inc.: How Private Power Crushed American Liberty--and What to Do About It (Forum Books, $28, 9780593443460).

5:45 p.m. Gail Sahar, author of Blame and Political Attitudes: The Psychology of America's Culture War (Palgrave Macmillan, $24.99, 9783031202353).

6:55 p.m. Mauro F. Guillén, author of The Perennials: The Megatrends Creating a Postgenerational Society (St. Martin's Press, $30, 9781250281340).



Books & Authors

Awards: Goldsmiths Shortlist

The shortlist has been selected for the £10,000 (about $12,130) 2023 Goldsmiths Prize, honoring "fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form." The winner will be announced November 8.

The shortlist:
Lori & Joe by Amy Arnold
The Long Form by Kate Briggs
Never Was by Gareth H. Gavin
Man-Eating Typewriter by Richard Milward
Cuddy by Benjamin Myers
The Future Future by Adam Thirlwell


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, October 10:

A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories by Terry Pratchett (Harper, $26.99, 9780063376199) contains 20 short stories originally written under a pseudonym in the 1970s and '80s.

Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, trans. by Todd Portnowitz (Knopf, $27, 9780593536322) is a short story collection by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

The Burnout: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella (The Dial Press, $28.99, 9780593730393) is a romantic comedy set in a dilapidated seaside resort.

The Final Witness: A Kennedy Secret Service Agent Breaks His Silence After Sixty Years by Paul Landis (Chicago Review Press, $30, 9781641609449) reveals new information about JFK's assassination.

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Penguin Press, $28, 9780593655955) shares wisdom from an inimitable life.

Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People's Business by Roxane Gay (Harper, $30, 9780063341463) collects ten years of essays.

Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir by Werner Herzog, trans. by Michael Hofmann (Penguin Press, $30, 9780593490297) explores the life of a legendary documentary filmmaker.

Becoming the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar (Gallery, $28.99, 9781668009161) is a sequel to the thriller Chasing the Boogeyman.

The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and John Kascht (Andrews McMeel, $19.99, 9781524884949) is a fable for adults authored and co-illustrated by the creator of Calvin and Hobbes.

Santa's Gotta Go! by Derrick Barnes, illus. by Courtney Lovett (Nancy Paulsen Books, $18.99, 9780593530436) features a very comfortable Santa who proves to be an unpleasant house guest.

The Vanquishers: Secret of the Reaping by Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury, $17.99, 9781547611577) is the spooky middle-grade sequel to The Vanquishers.

Paperbacks:
The Way Forward by Yung Pueblo (Andrews McMeel, $16.99, 9781524874834).

Lay It on the Line: A Backstage Pass to Rock Star Adventure, Conflict and Triumph by Rik Emmett (ECW Press, $21.95, 9781770416284).

Sugar Plum Poisoned: Cupcake Bakery Mystery Book 15 by Jenn McKinlay (Berkley, $8.99, 9780593549124).

Lies and Sorcery by Elsa Morante, trans. by Jenny McPhee (NYRB Classics, $24.95, 9781681376844).

Better Hate than Never by Chloe Liese (Berkley, $17, 9780593441527).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
The Six: The Untold Story of America's First Women Astronauts by Loren Grush (Scribner, $32.50, 9781982172800). "The Six introduces us to the real first women astronauts, who faced incredible scrutiny. The awesomeness of space exploration, the Challenger tragedy, the unreasonable press questions--experience it all with this accomplished group." --Rosemary Pugliese, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, N.C.

Creep: Accusations and Confessions by Myriam Gurba (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781982186470). "Through a historical and literary lens, Creep exposes racist dog whistles you may not be aware of, biases you don't even realize, and shines a light on oppression marginalized people face. It is full of heart, humor, and hard truths." --Alana Haley, Schuler Books, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Paperback
The Heart of It All by Christian Kiefer (Melville House, $19.99, 9781685890810). "The Heart of It All's beauty is its subtlety. Set in working-class Ohio, it shows the struggles and grace of people for whom the American Dream has slipped away. This is not a tale of good or evil, it's a bridge to understand our modern times." --Pat Rudebusch, Orinda Books, Orinda, Calif.

For Ages 0 to 8
Dear Unicorn by Josh Funk, illus. by Charles Santoso (Viking Books for Young Readers, $18.99, 9780593206942). "As we can always count on with Josh Funk's picture books, Dear Unicorn is imaginative, funny, and full of delightful surprises. While you may have other unicorn books, I guarantee you don't have one quite like this!" --Joanna Robertson, The Treehouse Reading and Arts Center, New York Mills, N.Y.

For Ages 10+
The Dark Lord's Daughter by Patricia C. Wrede (Random House Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9780553536201). "When Kayla is pulled from a state fair into a magical world, she wants nothing to do with becoming the next Dark Lady and even less to do with the terrible Traditions. She proves that it doesn't matter if your power is Dark or Light, it's how you use it." --Jordan Zwick, The Book Seller, Grass Valley, Calif.

For Teen Readers
All the Fighting Parts by Hannah V. Sawyerr (Amulet, $19.99, 9781419762611). "All the Fighting Parts pulls no punches, delving deep into the heart of one sexual assault survivor's journey through grief, guilt, resistance, and reclamation. I hope with all my might that Amina's story reaches those who need it most." --Isabel Agajanian, The Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Fla.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: We Must Not Think of Ourselves

We Must Not Think of Ourselves by Lauren Grodstein (Algonquin, $29 hardcover, 304p., 9781643752341, November 28, 2023)

Lauren Grodstein's novel We Must Not Think of Ourselves is a quietly terrifying immersion in the experience of Jewish occupants of Poland's Warsaw Ghetto during 1940-42. An English teacher before internment, widower Adam Paskow continues his calling behind the heavily guarded walls. Late one afternoon a man named Ringelblum, who wants Adam to join an archival project, approaches him in his classroom: "It is up to us to write our own history," he tells Adam. "Deny the Germans the last word." Adam, Grodstein's narrator, also writes journal entries for Ringelblum's project, because "there was no reason not to comply." Having lost his beloved wife four years earlier and now his livelihood, home, and freedom, Adam stumbles through a new life, sharing an apartment with 10 occupants in two families--all previously strangers to each other. He helps dispense sparse servings of soup at the Aid Society and, via conversation and poetry, teaches English. He slowly sells off his wife's fine linen sheets, silk pillowcases, and shoes. He transcribes interviews with his students, and the men, women, and children he lives with. New relationships form. He remembers his wife, waits for liberation, and then begins to understand that it may not come.

Prior to the Nazis' invasion of Poland, Adam was non-practicing ("I had barely remembered I was a Jew") and married to a wealthy non-Jewish woman; her mother's rejection of him and her father's demonstrative tolerance and proclaimed support highlight differences that the younger couple find insignificant. Adam calls himself a coward, but the honesty with which he bears witness is striking. His journal entries vary from the chapters that come between them; the direct first-person narration of the latter takes a more personal tone, but in both cases, Adam shares an unvarnished view of individual characters in all their complexities, never relying on easy labels. Adam, who teaches multiple languages, loves language in general, and Grodstein gives him a beautiful writing voice.

Grodstein (The Explanation for Everything; Our Short History) bases her historical novel upon a few real characters and events. Emanuel Ringelblum did oversee an archival project, which provides the background for this realistic, heartrending glimpse into the lives of Jewish occupants of the Warsaw Ghetto. We Must Not Think of Ourselves brings a horrifying chapter of history to readers with intimate, detailed portraits. In his detailed recording of other lives and of his own, Adam reveals that love may be found even in the starkest of situations, and he faces the hardest of choices about sacrifice: Who will you save if you can't save them all? --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Thought-provoking, tender, and horrifying, this memorable novel of Jewish lives in the Warsaw Ghetto offers timeless lessons.


The Bestsellers

Top Book Club Picks in September

The following were the most popular book club books during September based on votes from book club readers in more than 83,500 book clubs registered at Bookmovement.com:

1. Demon Copperhead: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper)
2. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano (Dial Press)
3. Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday)
4. Horse: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks (Viking)
5. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Grove Press)
6. Mad Honey: A Novel by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan (Ballantine Books)
7. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Knopf)
8. West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge (Lake Union)
9. The Measure: A Novel by Nikki Erlick (Morrow)
10. Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, 1) by Rebecca Yarros (Entangled: Red Tower Books)

Rising Stars:
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Story: A Novel by James McBride (Riverhead Books)
The Map Colorist: A Novel by Rebecca D'Harlingue (She Writes Press)

[Many thanks to Bookmovement.com!]


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