Also published on this date: Tuesday November 21, 2023: Maximum Shelf: John Lewis

Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 21, 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


Amicus Briefs Filed in Texas 'Book Sexual Rating' Law Appeals Case

Several organizations have submitted amicus curiae briefs with the appeals court in the case involving Texas's HB 900 "sexual rating" law, also known as the READER Act, which was scheduled to go into effect September 1. The state is appealing a district court judge's September decision to block key elements of the law.

One supporting brief, filed by Barnes & Noble, Half Price Books, Penguin Random House, Sourcebooks, the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Association of University Presses, the Educational Book and Media Association, and Freedom to Learn Advocates, argues:

"Rather than supporting educators, [the law] disempowers them and forces 'library materials vendors' against their will to participate in the State's overbroad efforts to restrict access in school libraries to books that contain the amorphously defined 'sexually relevant material' or 'sexually explicit material.'

"Book vendors are prohibited from selling 'sexually explicit material' to Texas schools--even though the definition of 'sexually explicit materials' does not contain an exemption for works of serious literary, artistic or scientific value.

"There is no compelling rationale why Texas needs to diminish the ability of booksellers to distribute The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, or The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner to students without parental consent, solely because they contain some depictions of sex--books that many generations of students before them have read."

Penguin Random House v-p and associate general counsel Dan Novack commented: "The READER Act forces publishers to stigmatize their own books--and authors--by labeling them unfit for students. It usurps the role of librarians, who apply their professional training in determining which books are right for their communities. Our brief will directly convey to 5th Circuit the damage READER will cause to publishers like us. We call upon the 5th Circuit to affirm Judge Albright's well-reasoned opinion."

And B&N said, "At Barnes & Noble, we believe it is our responsibility to offer a selection of reading materials as diverse as the society in which we live, and that it is in our power as readers to be informed, to reach and to teach. The READER Act, in compelling booksellers to adopt arbitrary and vague standards, would do just the opposite and deprive Texas students of vital literature that students nationwide have been reading for generations. We believe librarians and teachers are the appropriate professionals to determine what students in their communities read. We are proud to join with Penguin Random House, and other publishers, booksellers, and authors, to support our constitutional freedom of speech and expression. The READER Act will cause enormous damage not only to Barnes & Noble, and those who join us in this brief, but most especially to students in Texas. We urge the 5th Circuit to affirm the district court's eloquent and well-reasoned decision."

In its amicus brief, PEN America said that the law "evinces a facile understanding of literature and a failure to acknowledge its value as a recognized First Amendment interest."

Nadine Farid Johnson, managing director of PEN America's Washington office, said, "HB 900's censorious approach to literature in schools is antithetical to fundamental First Amendment values. The bill represents a dangerous attempt on the part of the state to intervene in art and literature, and its chilling effect would severely undermine writers' creative freedom."

A group consisting of BookPeople, Austin, Tex.; the Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex.; the American Booksellers Association; the Association of American Publishers; the Authors Guild; and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund filed suit in July, asking for preliminary and permanent injunctions against the law, and won.

Under the law, all companies selling to school libraries, librarians, and teachers in Texas have to assign ratings to books concerning their sexual content. (Titles for required curricula are exempted from the law.) A book deemed "sexually explicit" will be banned, and a book deemed "sexually relevant" will have restricted access. The "sexually relevant" rating covers, plaintiffs said, all non-explicit references, in any context, to sexual relations, and therefore "could apply broadly to health-related works, religious texts, historical works, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and many other works."

The law also has a retroactive feature: by next April, all booksellers and other book vendors must submit to the Texas Education Agency a list of every book they've ever sold to a teacher, librarian, or school that qualifies for a sexual rating and is in active use. The stores also are required to issue recalls for any sexually explicit books. If the Agency finds that a bookstore has been incorrectly rating books, it can be banned from doing business with charter schools or school districts. The Agency can also override booksellers' ratings.

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

Romance Bookstore Under the Cover Opens in Kansas City, Mo.

A romance-focused bookstore called Under the Cover opened last week in Kansas City, Mo., the Kansas City Star reported.

Store owner Carley Morton, a longtime romance reader who also hosts a podcast dedicated to the genre, held a soft opening for her store on Wednesday. Located at 605 E. 31st St. in midtown Kansas City, the bookstore features a wide variety of romance sub-genres with section names like "Yes, Your Majesty," or "Oh, a Billionaire." There are also sections focused on local authors and titles that have taken off on BookTok.

Morton told the Star she was inspired by her love of the genre, the ongoing boom in romance sales, and the other romance-focused bookstores that have opened around the country in recent years. "I was talking to my husband afterward and was like, 'Look, I think we could do a romance bookstore.' And then he did a bunch of research and was like, 'Look, you could totally do a romance bookstore.' "

So far the bookstore has met with an enthusiastic response, and a video taken of the bookstore on opening day went viral, garnering more than 207,000 views on TikTok. Added Morton: "So, it's been crazy. I've been getting so many texts about it."

Under the Cover will host a grand opening celebration this weekend on Indies First/Small Business Saturday. There will be food, drinks, and visits from local authors, including Sierra Simone.

International Update: Vivendi Closes French Publisher Editis Sale; RISE Bookselling Conference 2024

Vivendi has closed the sale of Editis, France's second largest publisher, to International Media Invest for €653 million (about $715 million). The Bookseller reported that the deal "includes the reimbursement of Editis' debt and is considerably less than the €900 million [about $985 million] Vivendi paid Spain's Grupo Planeta for the publisher in 2018."

In a statement, Vivendi said the sale of Gala magazine to the newspaper group Le Figaro is expected to go through by the end of this month, completing the two asset-shedding conditions the European Commission set for Vivendi to acquire the Lagardère Group, which owns Hachette Livre. The takeover "should take place in the coming weeks, allowing Vivendi to fully implement its ambitious development plan."

Catherine Lucet has replaced Michèle Benbunan as managing director of Editis. Lucet was head of the publisher's education and reference division and group deputy managing director, until she left in October 2022.

On November 8, Lagardère group had announced that chairman and CEO Arnaud Lagardère would take over from Pierre Leroy as head of Hachette Livre, with the aim of building on the publisher's "major projects and successes of recent years" as Vivendi's acquisition of Lagardère was about to go ahead.


The 2024 RISE Bookselling Conference has released its program and announced that French author Manu Causse will be one of the keynote speakers. The second edition of the conference is scheduled for March 17-18 in Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal. 

Over the course of two days, the program includes keynote speeches, presentations, workshops, and panel sessions, as well as the exchange of ideas with booksellers from around the world.

Last March, more than 230 international booksellers and book professionals gathered in Prague, Czech Republic, for the first edition of the RISE Bookselling Conference. Check out some of the highlights here

RISE Bookselling is organized by the European and International Booksellers Federation and co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union.


Congratulations to Bahrisons Booksellers, the iconic Indian bookstore in the Khan Market, New Delhi, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The Hindu reported that the shop "goes beyond its traditional role of selling books and remains a favorite hangout for seven decades.... Not much concerned about threats from the digital world, Bahrisons today has 10 shops--five in Delhi, two in Kolkata, and one each in Chandigarh, Gurugram, and Noida.

"When you are running a heritage bookstore, there is a goal to the legacy of the business," said owner Anuj Bahri Malhotra, who has stayed true to the dreams of his father's and his own: to get every book lover the book he or she comes looking for in the shop.

Since opening, Bahrisons has closed only on two occasions--on February 26, 2016, when Malhotra's father died, and for 10 days during the pandemic. "The Covid-19 days gave us courage," Malhotra said. "We knew our customers were confined to their homes, getting bored and wanting to read. We made personal calls to many while many others reached out to us. We got special permission from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to open after 10 days and deliver books to our customers."

He added, "My father always sat at the cash counter. I feel his presence in the shop." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Julie Barnard

Julie Barnard

Julie Barnard, a longtime bookseller and book group leader at Rakestraw Books in Danville, Calif., died on November 15 after a long illness. She was a passionate reader, handseller, and a favorite with customers, writers, and publishers alike.

A lifelong reader, Julie joined her son, Michael Barnard, at the bookstore following her retirement from Pacific Bell. She deeply loved her second career as a bookseller. Customers loved not only her recommendations--from classics to debut writers--but also her kindness. Among her favorites to share with customers were novels by Wallace Stegner, Alice Hoffman, and Anne Tyler, thrillers by Chris Bohjalian, and essays by Anne Lamott.

In 2007, Julie started a book group to read the new Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Tolstoy's War and Peace. The six months it took made the group into a tightly knit community. Julie led this group until her health failed in September. In 2010, Julie and fellow bookseller Cheryl McKeon started Rakestraw's Book Group Festival. The lively and thoughtful event was an immediate hit with customers.

Julie's reputation as an early reader of new work was recognized when she joined a buzz group of booksellers put together by publisher Pam Dorman, whom she had met at a publisher lunch.

Author Chris Bohjalian said, "Julie was a treasure as book person, of course, but she was also the sort of human being you cherished because she was honest and kind. Some of my books I'm most proud of are the ones Julie respected, because they were, in her opinion, authentic and raw and not easy to categorize. Once when I was at the store, I watched her suggest books to readers, and it was evident that she really understood these individuals and wanted to share the books that, on some level, they needed."


Image of the Day: The First Lady of World War II

Shannon McKenna Schmidt (l.) joined Denise Kiernan in Asheville, N.C., for Kiernan's monthly series CRAFT: Authors in Conversation. They discussed Schmidt's book The First Lady of World War II: Eleanor Roosevelt's Daring Journey to the Frontlines and Back (Sourcebooks). The event was co-hosted by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café and held at Little Jumbo bar, where the featured cocktail was The Brave.

Bookstore Fixtures for Sale

Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., is selling wall bookcases, display tables and island bookcases on wheels, small cabinets, slatwall and pegboard, and cash register counters, all made by Franklin Fixtures. If interested, please call or e-mail Ron Tucker at 202-363-8214 or via e-mail.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Eric André, Dan Curry on Drew Barrymore

Today Show: Jessie James Decker, author of Just Eat: More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Recipes That Taste Just Like Home (Dey Street, $32.50, 9780063210608).

Tamron Hall: JJ Johnson, co-author of The Simple Art of Rice: Recipes from Around the World for the Heart of Your Table (Flatiron, $34.99, 9781250809100).

Drew Barrymore Show: Eric André and Dan Curry, author of Dumb Ideas: A Behind-the-Scenes Exposé on Making Pranks and Other Stupid Creative Endeavors (and How You Can Also Too!) (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982187682).

TV: Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light

Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light, based on the final novel in Hilary Mantel's award-winning trilogy (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies), will begin filming shortly, according to Masterpiece PBS and the BBC. Reuniting the creative team from the BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning first series, the project will be directed by Peter Kosminsky (The Undeclared War, The State) and adapted for TV by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Frank). Playground (All Creatures Great and Small, The Undeclared War) and Company Pictures (Van Der Valk, Blood) are producing.

Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis will reprise their roles as Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII, respectively. The cast also includes Jonathan Pryce (Cardinal Wolsey), Kate Phillips (Jane Seymour), and Lilit Lesser (Princess Mary). Other returning and new cast members will be announced at a later date. 

"The Mirror and the Light picks up exactly where Wolf Hall ended, with the execution of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn," said Kosminsky. "I'm overjoyed to be able to reunite the extraordinary cast we were lucky enough to assemble for Wolf Hall, led by the brilliant Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis, with the original creative team of Gavin Finney (DOP), Pat Campbell (designer) and Joanna Eatwell (costume designer). We are all determined to complete what we started--and to honor the final novel written by one of the greatest literary figures of our age, Hilary Mantel." 

Colin Callender, CEO of Playground, added: "Following the success of the BAFTA and Golden Globe winning original television adaptation of the first two books in Hilary Mantel's acclaimed Wolf Hall trilogy, we are thrilled and honored that, nine years later, we have been able re-unite Peter Kosminsky and his brilliant team, in front of and behind the camera, to bring Thomas Cromwell's final chapter to the screen. Intimate, thrilling, and deeply moving, The Mirror and the Light shines a fresh light on the politics of power and the personal price paid by those who wield it. Cromwell's story is as contemporary as ever--a story of loyalty and betrayal that just happens to be about people 500 years ago." 

Susanne Simpson, executive producer of Masterpiece, commented: "I am incredibly proud to bring Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light to Masterpiece and the American audience. It is thrilling that such brilliant actors as Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis will reprise their roles for this final chapter of Thomas Cromwell's story. The level of excellence on and off screen for this series is incomparable." Masterpiece is presented on PBS by GBH Boston. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Governor General's Literary Winners

The Canada Council for the Arts revealed the 2023 winners of the Governor General's Literary Awards, which "celebrate remarkable literary works published in Canada, in both official languages, across seven categories, and include books for readers of all ages." 

Each winner receives C$25,000 (about US$18,210), with the publisher receiving C$3,000 (about US$2,185) to promote the winning book; finalists receive C$1,000 (about US$730) each. This year's winning titles are:

Fiction: Chrysalis by Anuja Varghese
Poetry: Xanax Cowboy by Hannah Green 
Drama: William Shakespeare's As You Like It: A Radical Retelling by Cliff Cardinal
Nonfiction: Unearthing by Kyo Maclear
Young people's literature/text: The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett
Young people's literature/illustrated books: When You Can Swim by Jack Wong
Translation (from French to English): Rosaʼs Very Own Personal Revolution by Peter McCambridge, a translation of La logeuse by Éric Dupont

Fiction: Galumpf by Marie Hélène Poitras
Poetry: Atikᵁ utei. Le cœur du caribou by Rita Mestokosho
Drama: Gros gars by Mathieu Gosselin
Nonfiction: Faux rebelles: Les dérives du politiquement incorrect by Philippe Bernier Arcand
Young people's literature/text: Linoubliable by Lou Beauchesne
Young people's literature/illustrated books: Le plus petit sauveur du monde by Samuel Larochelle & Eve Patenaude
Translation (from English to French): Dans lʼombre du soleil: Réflexions sur la race et les récits by Catherine Ego, a translation of Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan

Michelle Chawla, Canada Council for the Arts director and CEO, said, "Each of the winning books in this year's Governor General's Literary Awards gives us, as readers, something new and unique to explore. The winners of the 2023 GGBooks are memorable and distinct in how they connect us to the current moment. They are being celebrated and are worth discovering for what has been captured on the page, and because they will go on to influence literature and generations of readers to come."

Book Review

Review: Alphabetical Diaries

Alphabetical Diaries by Sheila Heti (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 hardcover, 224p., 9780374610784, February 6, 2024)

Writer Sheila Heti (Pure Colour; Motherhood) offers an experimental meditation on the self's development over time in her auto-fictional Alphabetical Diaries. Ten years ago, Heti returned to the diaries she'd kept for more than a decade. Meticulously recording each sentence from the diaries into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and then alphabetizing them, she began looking for patterns, breakages, and touch points in her documentation of her own life.

The result is a book consisting of chapters organized by letter, an alphabetized list of her diary sentences no longer structured by time or narrative. Heti's alphabetized diary sentences originally were published as a 10-installment newsletter by the New York Times, but find new resonance in this novel-esque form. Readers can't help but search for narrative meaning in a book divided into chapters. But when such a throughline is elusive, other ways of understanding, organizing, and processing the fleeting and seemingly everyday moments of the writer-narrator's life surface.

Like Heti's own way of looking for patterns and disruption in her diaries' re-arranged sentences, readers will recognize moments of repetition and juxtaposition in Alphabetical Diaries' sentences. In one early section, the narrator offers a list of desires: "A desire to do acting. A desire to help people. A desire to uplift humanity." While it might be the repetition that immediately catches the eye, it's Heti's lists' slight differences that give them resonance: "But love can endure. But love is not enough." This mutability, likely true of most diaries--and most people's internal lives--is put on display here through the compression of time, which allows almost every sentence to read like a profound truth, only to have the next sentence complicate it.

While people and specific events figure prominently in these sentences, without context, the emotive nature of Heti's precise language takes center stage. In lines like "I want to tear him apart with my teeth and feel his blood all over my mouth," readers are thrown into the stark reality of feelings made flesh. These sentences offer a raw, near-relentless encounter with the intimate ways the narrator experiences herself. And while the book offers more questions about that self than it does answers, it also carves out space for readers, too, to pause with what kinds of feelings, desires, and thoughts might inform their own lives. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: A thought-provoking experiment in self-reflection and prose, Alphabetical Diaries is perhaps Sheila Heti's most intimate and most universal book yet.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Twisted Love by Ana Huang
2. Love Redesigned by Lauren Asher
3. Hunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton
4. Powerless by Elsie Silver
5. Twisted Games by Ana Huang
6. King of Wrath by Ana Huang
7. Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano
8. The Graham Effect by Elle Kennedy
9. Carnage: A Dark Revenge Romance by Shantel Tessier
10. The Rules of Dating My One-Night Stand by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland

[Many thanks to!]

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