Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 23, 2023

Little Brown and Company: Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

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


Frankfurt 2023: Sun and Clouds

Some 105,000 publishers, agents, booksellers, and others from 130 countries attended the trade part of the Frankfurt Book Fair last week, an increase of 20% over last year and about 70% of the last pre-Covid fair in 2019--a level that fair organizers had hoped to reach. In addition, 110,000 members of the general public attended over the weekend, a 27% jump from last year. The fair celebrated this climb back toward "normalcy" as well as its 75th anniversary.

Still, there was an air of tension and concern at the fair for a variety of reasons: the situation in the Middle East and the fair's stance toward it; the growing spread around the world of efforts to ban and limit access to books; the need to respond to climate change; and the never-ending challenge of making sure that literature is recognized for its deep cultural and human value.

There were several panels and programs devoted to sustainability in the book industry, including a talk by Gaia Vince, the British author and environmental journalist, at the opening press conference about the connection between climate change and migration movements. And at the 44th International Supply Chain Seminar, updates were given on the Publishing 2030 Accelerator, the effort by a group of publishing staffers to calculate the carbon footprint of an individual printed book.

'Banned Books in the U.S.': (from l.) EIBF's Daniel Martín Brennan, Kate Layte, and Cheryl Lee

At various panels and meetings, attendees outlined a range of efforts to ban or limit access to books. These include attempts by national governments to control and publish textbooks--Mexico and the Dominican Republic are the most recent examples--attempts to pressure publishers and booksellers to stop or limit the publishing and sale of books critical of the government or highlighting LGBTQ+ characters--India and Hungary--and, sadly, the many efforts to ban books in the U.S., which were discussed by Kate Layte of Papercuts Bookshop, Boston, Mass., and Cheryl Lee of 44th & 3rd Bookseller, Atlanta, Ga., at the European & Independent Booksellers Federation conference.

An empty stand in the section for Arab publishers.

The fair's missteps involving the Hamas-Israel war were a surprise, given its usual desire to create a space for the open exchange of a range of ideas and viewpoints. The cancellation of the LiBeratur Prize ceremony, which was to honor Palestinian author Adania Shibli, as well as fair director Juergen Boos's initial statement that the fair "stands with full solidarity on the side of Israel," led several Arab and Muslim exhibitors to cancel participation. (And many Israeli publishers and agents didn't attend the fair for obvious, tragic reasons.) While a second statement from Boos was more nuanced, the damage had been done. Then, at the official opening ceremony, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek was booed and heckled when he called the decision to cancel the LiBeratur award ceremony "scandalous," adding "we are approaching the paradoxes of cancel culture. All that cancel culture does is exclude those who don't fit your notion of inclusion and diversity."

Among events added at the last minute because of the war was a conversation between Judith Gurewich of Other Press and German literary agent Günter Berg called "The Transmission of Trauma: Publishing Voices from Israel and Palestine."

At several events during the fair, Salman Rushdie, who received the Peace Prize of the German Book Industry yesterday, provided some helpful perspective on the role of literature and the need to allow opinions to be expressed even if one does not agree with them. In his talk yesterday during the prize ceremony, Rushdie advocated: "Counter bad speech with better speech, counter false narratives with better ones, respond to hate with love and don't give up hope that the truth can prevail even in a time of lies."

We'll have more reporting on these subjects in the coming days. --John Mutter

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Park Street Books & Toys, Medfield, Mass., May Avoid Closure

Park Street Books & Toys, Medfield, Mass., which announced recently it would be closing in 2024 when owner Jim James plans to retire, has received an offer from "a longtime customer and friend," which "may keep the doors open after all," Boston 25 News reported.

As community members asked James about the future of the store, a friend came into the shop with an offer. She proposed buying the business from James, adding to it, and keeping him on as a part-time employee. "While the deal is not yet official, James said there is likely a next chapter for the store. He expects to make an announcement with positive news for book-lovers in the next week or two," Boston 25 News wrote.

"I didn't realize the extent of the love for the store," James said. "It's humbling, and it's very hopeful. I think great things are coming. It'll live on, which is incredible. Maybe my grandkid will work here one day."

In a recent Facebook post, James wrote that although he hadn't set a closing date yet, he anticipated the store would be open through early summer. Noting that he "just can't put in the energy that the store deserves," he added, in part: "You have all given me tremendous joy. I hope the store has brought you joy.... Thank you to all of our wonderful customers from so many towns. You saw the importance of an indie bookstore in our community. You supported us, even though there are online options that are often more convenient. I am grateful for all of you. I hope you will reach out if you ever want to talk about books, toys, or life, the Universe, and everything."

Pa.'s Newtown Bookshop Reopens in New Location

Newtown Bookshop, Newtown, Pa., has reopened in its new location, at 2120 S. Eagle Road in the Village at Newtown South. The Newtown Patch reported that after 23 years at the shop's previous space, owner Kathy Morrison and her staff packed up the store and moved earlier this month.

"We're really excited about our new store," she said. "We like the layout. It is more open. It's brighter. And it allows us to have more people at our events. It also allows us to see the whole store," said Morrison, explaining that "the old location was separated into two distinct areas--the front end of the store and the back end.... This store is wide open. It makes it look bigger even though it's a comparable size. And every book that was at the old store is over here. We have the same sections. It's definitely an updated look so it's more current. And we're really happy with the way it turned out."

Morrison, the third owner of the bookshop, has lived in Newtown since she was 12 and raised her family there. She purchased the bookshop more than 11 years ago after finding out the owner was considering selling or closing the business.

"One thing led to another and I ended up buying it," said Morrison, who was working for the bookshop at the time. "One of the memories that was near and dear to my heart was standing in line with my children for the Harry Potter book release events. I just couldn't let the store close."

The decision to relocate was about positioning Newtown Bookshop for future success and staying in Newtown. She is hoping to take advantage of the foot traffic at the shopping center and the visibility of the new store.

"We've been open a week. Our customers are finding us over here. We're seeing some new customers come in who didn't know us from the old shopping center," she noted. "We were tucked away in a corner over there. Now we're out in the open and people can see us clearly from the road that goes through the shopping center."

Newtown Bookshop will host its grand reopening celebration at the new space this coming Saturday, October 28, "with a full day of authors, music, refreshments, promotions and raffles! So please come over and join in the fun!"

Obituary Note: Michael Leapman 

Michael Leapman, a Fleet Street journalist whose 60-year career included "war reporting, editing the diary column of the Times and writing about his Brixton allotment," has died, the Guardian reported. He was 85. His 18 books include biographies of Rupert Murdoch (Barefaced Cheek) and former Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock (Kinnock).

Leapman was born in Hendon, north London. "After national service in the navy (which ended with three days in military prison and a dishonorable discharge, after he refused an instruction to fetch a broom), he went into journalism with stints on English-language newspapers in Cyprus and Iran. He did not endear himself to the authorities in either country. He returned to the U.K. to work at the Scotsman, then the Sun as a diplomatic reporter," the Guardian noted.

From 1969 to 1981, Leapman was with the Times. While working as Times Diary editor, he was also the New York correspondent, writing a weekly "Leapman in America" column. In the 1980s, he worked at the Daily Express and the Independent, then for more than 30 years he was a freelance and nonfiction author. 

In addition to his biographies, Leapman wrote books about the BBC and the press; gardening history; and the Kindertransport evacuations on the even of World War II; as well as guidebooks to London and New York. His works include The World for a Shilling; Witnesses to War: Eight True-life Stories of Nazi Persecution; The Ingenious Mr. Fairchild: The Forgotten Father of the Flower Garden; and Inigo: The Troubled Life of Inigo Jones, Architect of the English Renaissance.

In the Guardian's obituary, Ben Leapman observed that his father also "had a passion for theatre, horseracing and cricket, and was a lifelong Labour party member."


Image of the Day: The First Cat in Space Tour Lands at Third Place Books

Shawn Harris and Mac Barnett brought their First Cat in Space tour to Third Place Books, Seattle, Wash., for an evening that included live acoustic performances and a costume contest/fashion show based on their graphic novel The First Cat in Space and the Soup of Doom (Katherine Tegen Books). Pictured: Third Place booksellers close out the night with Barnett (seated, in white) and Harris (standing, left).

Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

At Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing:

Alex Kelleher has been promoted to publicity director.

Lindsey Ferris has been promoted to associate publicist.

Antonella Colon has been promoted to associate publicist.

Brian Murray has been promoted to marketing associate for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, and Beach Lane Books.

Perla Gil has been promoted to marketing coordinator for Aladdin, Boynton Bookworks, Little Simon, Simon Spotlight, Simon Pulse, and Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Amy Lavigne Tormey has been promoted to assistant marketing manager, digital marketing.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Harry Dunn on CBS Mornings, the View

CBS Mornings: Harry Dunn, author of Standing My Ground: A Capitol Police Officer's Fight for Accountability and Good Trouble After January 6th (Hachette Books, $28, 9780306831133). He will also appear tomorrow on the View.

Good Morning America: John Stamos, author of If You Would Have Told Me: A Memoir (Holt, $29.99, 9781250890979). He will also appear today on Live with Kelly and Mark and tomorrow on the View and the Tonight Show.

Tamron Hall: Lindsey Jacobellis, author of Unforgiving: Lessons from the Fall (Harper, $30, 9780063294479).

Drew Barrymore Show: Nicole Avant, author of Think You'll Be Happy: Moving Through Grief with Grit, Grace, and Gratitude (HarperOne, $28.99, 9780063304413).

The Talk: Geri Halliwell-Horner, author of Rosie Frost and the Falcon Queen (Philomel, $18.99, 9780593623343). She will also appear today on E! News.

CBS Mornings: Adam Grant, author of Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things (Viking, $32, 9780593653142).

Good Morning America: José Andrés, co-author of The World Central Kitchen Cookbook: Feeding Humanity, Feeding Hope (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9780593579077).

Tamron Hall: Donna Marie Hayes, author of These Broken Roads: Scammed and Vindicated, One Woman's Story (Sibylline Press, $17, 9781736795446).

Drew Barrymore Show: Cleo Wade, author of Remember Love: Words for Tender Times (Harmony, $26, 9780593581360).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Jesmyn Ward, author of Let Us Descend: A Novel (Scribner, $28, 9781982104498).

Movies: The Boys in the Boat

A trailer has been released for the upcoming film The Boys in the Boat, adapted from Daniel James Brown's nonfiction book about the University of Washington men's crew team that won a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. IndieWire reported that George Clooney directs the historical drama, "on the heels of helming The Tender Bar," from a script by Mark L. Smith.

Joel Edgerton and Callum Turner are among the cast, which includes Chris Diamantopoulos, Callum Turner, Jack Mulhern, Sam Strike, Luke Slattery, Thomas Elms, Tom Varey, Bruce Herbelin-Earle, Wil Coban, James Wolk, Hadley Robinson, and Courtney Henggeler. 

Clooney produces the film along with Grant Heslov. Kevin Ulrich, Barbara A. Hall, Gary Barber, and Peter Oillataguerre serve as executive producers. The Boys in the Boat premieres December 25 in theaters. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Hugo Winners

The winners of the 2023 Hugo Awards, sponsored by the World Science Fiction Society, are:

Best Novel: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (Tor Books)
Best Novella: Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)
Best Novelette: "The Space-Time Painter" by Hai Ya (Galaxy's Edge, April 2022)
Best Short Story: "Rabbit Test" by Samantha Mills (Uncanny Magazine, November-December 2022)
Best Series: Children of Time Series by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pan Macmillan/Orbit)
Best Graphic Story or Comic: Cyberpunk 2077: Big City Dreams by Bartosz Sztybor, Filipe Andrade, Alessio Fioriniello, Roman Titov, Krzysztof Ostrowski (Dark Horse Books)
Best Related Work: Terry Pratchett: A Life with Footnotes by Rob Wilkins (Doubleday)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Everything Everywhere All at Once, screenplay by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert (IAC Films/Gozie AGBO)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Expanse: "Babylon's Ashes" written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Naren Shankar, directed by Breck Eisner (Alcon Entertainment)
Best Editor, Short Form: Neil Clarke
Best Editor, Long Form: Lindsey Hall
Best Professional Artist: Enzhe Zhao
Best Semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine
Best Fanzine: Zero Gravity Newspaper
Best Fancast: Hugo, Girl!
Best Fan Writer: Chris M. Barkley
Best Fan Artist: Richard Man
Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (presented by the World Science Fiction Society): Akata Woman (The Nsibidi Scripts) by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Astounding Award for Best New Writer (presented by Dell Magazines): Travis Baldree

Book Review

Review: Above the Fire

Above the Fire by Michael O'Donnell (Blackstone, $25.99 hardcover, 256p., 9798200987757, December 5, 2023)

In his debut novel, Michael O'Donnell conjures a frighteningly plausible national emergency that leaves a father and son stranded in New Hampshire's White Mountains as winter approaches. It's a terse, well-paced story that effectively blends the elements of a classic nature adventure tale with a touching portrait of the loving relationship between a parent and child.

When Doug and his seven-year-old son, Tim, leave their Boston home for a week of late-October hiking along the Presidential Traverse--a chain of peaks that includes 6,288-foot Mount Washington--they can hardly imagine what awaits them in that rugged, beautiful territory. After a routine day on the trail, they learn of an apparent catastrophic cyberattack on U.S. infrastructure that has thrown American society into chaos and cut them off from all communications with the outside world. They find themselves in a physical confrontation against the elements and a psychological battle with isolation, and uncertainty about the crisis that may be unfolding in the cities and towns below. 

Once Doug makes the decision not to risk a return to their home, he and Tim have the good fortune to gain access to a well-provisioned trail cabin where they can settle in for the approaching winter. Over the course of several brutally cold and snowy months, their food supply slowly dwindles, and they face an inevitable departure. O'Donnell patiently reveals how the pair are drawn closer together by their mutual need for support. To make their circumstances more poignant, they're still dealing with lingering grief over the death of their wife and mother, Carol, several years earlier. Though he's already an experienced single parent, Doug must adapt those skills to this unusual environment and circumstances. He fashions an educational program for his intellectually agile son and enlists him in a project to construct a desk and stool where he can do his schoolwork.

O'Donnell, who practices law in the Chicago area and who has contributed reviews and essays to publications that include the Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal, draws on his own experiences hiking in this territory to provide a vivid picture of the region's breathtaking scenery and its omnipresent dangers. He favors a restrained prose style, and carefully balances his story between descriptions of the external tests facing Doug and Tim and a sensitive examination of an interpersonal relationship that is profoundly reshaped by their extended confinement. Above the Fire inevitably will evoke comparisons to Cormac McCarthy's The Road. That's heady company, but O'Donnell demonstrates impressive confidence about meeting that challenge. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: In a concise, fast-paced first novel, a father and his young son battle the elements during an isolated winter in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

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