Also published on this date: Tuesday February 27, 2024: Maximum Shelf: The Brave In-Between

Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Flatiron Books: The Last One at the Wedding by Jason Rekulak

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley

Ace Books: Toto by AJ Hackwith and The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society by CM Waggoner

Webtoon Unscrolled: Age Matters Volume Two by Enjelicious

St. Martin's Press:  How to Think Like Socrates: Ancient Philosophy as a Way of Life in the Modern World  by Donald J Robertson

Hanover Square Press: The Dallergut Dream Department Store (Original) by Miye Lee, Translated by Sandy Joosun Lee

Nosy Crow: Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial by Joe Todd-Stanton and Kieran Larwood

Andrews McMeel Publishing: A Haunted Road Atlas: Next Stop: More Chilling and Gruesome Tales from and That's Why We Drink by Christine Schiefer and Em Schulz


The Whispering Shelf Coming to Indianapolis, Ind.

The Whispering Shelf, a new and used bookstore with titles for all ages, is opening this spring in Indianapolis, Ind.

Rendering of the Whispering Shelf

Store owner Lena Burt, whose background is in social work, is eyeing a soft opening date of April 20, followed by a grand opening on Independent Bookstore Day. The 2,200-square-foot store will have around 1,950 sq. ft. of selling space, with inventory split between two rooms.

The smaller of the two rooms will contain all fiction, along with a children's corner. The larger room will have a "living room space" with a couch, two chairs, and a coffee table, where Burt hopes customers will "sit and stay a while." And although the store won't have a cafe, there will be a self-service coffee spot and perhaps a suggested tip jar.

At opening, the store's inventory will be about 90% new books and 10% used. Over time, Burt intends to expand the used selection to make up about 30% of the inventory. She is also in the process of getting approval to put a little free library on the patio outside the bookstore. Making books accessible is very important to her, and between the free books outside, the used selection, and the new books, customers will be able to find something for themselves "no matter what your bank account says."

Equally important to Burt is representation. Through careful curation, she wants to make sure that "people in our community can walk in and see themselves" reflected in the titles on display. During the store's soft opening period, she will be soliciting feedback from community members to make sure the space "really is representative." That will include making sure the store doesn't just meet ADA standards but goes "above and beyond."

Lena Burt

On the subject of events, Burt said she would like to host curated book clubs depending on staff interest, and one of the store's first events will be a discussion between a local author and an audiobook narrator. She noted that in Indianapolis, First Friday events are a "big deal." She is still working out some of the details, but she plans to do "something special" on First Fridays, including staying open later than usual.

Once a month, Burt plans to open early for events for families with small children, remarking "by 10 a.m., we've already been awake for many hours." Aside from that, Burt intends to curate events based on community interest.

Burt said she's probably "always romanticized the idea" of opening a bookstore, but over the past three years, after becoming a mom and having "time to think" during the Covid-19 pandemic, it began to feel "much more accessible." She also felt ready for a change and wanted to give back to her community in a different way.

She began by doing "a lot of homework for about a year," and all of her research underscored the value of buying a building. With an eye toward "longevity's sake," she began working with a real estate agent. It took more than a year to find the right space and, meanwhile, Burt made her bookselling debut by hosting pop-up shops. Finally, she found a great spot at 414 N. College Avenue in downtown Indianapolis, in a historic neighborhood that Burt described as residential and full of restaurants and other retail. She purchased the building in January 2023.

Burt said the community has been very supportive, and "so many" people have stopped by the store to say hello and ask questions. "It's been very positive. People seem so eager." --Alex Mutter

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

Queer Haven Books, Columbia, S.C., Eyes April Opening

Queer Haven Books, a queer bookstore, coffee shop, and community space, is planning an April opening in Columbia, S.C., the Post and Courier reported.

Owner Baker Rogers, an academic with a focus on gender, sexuality, and religion in the South, has found a 600-square-foot space in the Arcade Mall on Columbia's Main St. There will be titles of all genres and for all ages written by queer authors or telling queer stories, and Queer Haven Books will also sell coffee and tea.

Baker Rogers

"I think it's more important than ever that we carve out space for people in the queer community to take care of ourselves and, as a bookstore, provide education for those who are interested and willing to learn," Rogers told the Post and Courier. They noted that the bookstore is down the street from the S.C. State House, "where they're having all these horrible hearings right now about trans(gender) health care."

Rogers began raising funds to open the bookstore last May. The build-out will start in March, and Rogers expects to open the following month.

"We found a need, we supported an idea (one that some may call a little crazy), we raised the funds, and now we are ready to open our bricks-and-mortar queer bookstore in South Carolina," wrote Rogers in a Facebook post. "I say 'we,' because there is no way I could have done this alone. We, as a queer community (and our straight allies too), pulled together to carve out a little more space for queer people in this state and region."

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

Small Press Distribution Moves Forward with 'SPD Next' Program

A key part of Small Press Distribution's "SPD Next" program has been completed: more than 300,000 books from SPD's Berkeley, Calif., warehouse have been moved to storage and fulfillment with partners Publishers Storage and Shipping and Ingram Content Group. The move took some three months. "I cannot overstate the amount of time, sweat, and perseverance that our team has put into making the move to SPD Next a reality," said Kent Watson, SPD executive director.

Under the program, SPD goes from operating a traditional, fixed-cost warehouse to relying on variable-cost storage and fulfillment with two mission-aligned partners. The new approach should enable SPD, it said, "to meet its goal of empowering small presses across the country to grow, thrive, and bring new and marginalized voices to readers in a time of publishing industry consolidation, increasingly monopolistic distribution channels and frightening censorship and book banning targeting minority communities of all kinds."

SPD executive director Kent Watson taking down the Small Press Distribution sign.

Watson also noted, "Our proudest accomplishment is closing our historic warehouse in Berkeley without a single layoff. We've brought our former warehouse team into new roles supporting added services, so that no jobs were lost in the transition."

The SPD team is now shifting its focus to "rolling out modern, tried-and-true practices (expanding print-on-demand, e-books, audiobooks, global distribution) plus training that were unaffordable to many presses until now. On top of faster shipping, worldwide distribution, and wider availability in independent bookstores,, and libraries in the U.S. and beyond, these services will ensure that SPD publishers have lower overhead. This will allow them to publish more authors, get more books in readers' hands, and maneuver more nimbly within the tight margins of the publishing business."

To help fund the rollout of hundreds of POD titles, lower costs, and provide global reach, SPD is embarking on a new round of fundraising from both individuals and institutions. As a nonprofit, SPD has always depended on philanthropy and small donors to help fulfill its mission. Donations can be made here.

Obituary Note: Karen Baker

Karen Baker, founder and longtime owner of the Country Bookseller, Wolfeboro, N.H., has died.

The store posted, "It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Karen Baker. We have been reluctant to make a formal statement as Karen was someone who loved making others feel special rather than being the topic of conversation herself. That being said, we respectfully ask that instead of asking questions about her passing, you share memories of her light, selflessness, and legacy. More importantly, the best way to honor her memory is to put more love into the world.

"The Country Bookseller was never just a business to Karen. She chose this community thirty years ago and you all welcomed her with open arms. Her goal was always to make sure you knew she welcomed you into hers. We would like to assure you that we intend to do the same.

"Business will carry on as usual, so if you need a book, a friend, or a chair to sleep in (you know who you are), we are here."

Friends in the books world remembered her with affection. On social media, Nan Sorensen, formerly of the New England Independent Booksellers Association, wrote, "I'm so sad to hear this. I was lucky & got to know Karen when she was on the NEIBA Advisory Council. And it was always a treat the few times I got to visit the store. Such a smart, caring and fun woman and she will be greatly missed."

Debra Woodward called Baker "a lovely woman who really believed in independent bookselling."

And Suzette Ciancio wrote, "My heart breaks. Being with Karen was always a good experience. She was a delight to work with and she will be much missed."


Happy Fifth Birthday, Loyalty Bookstores!

Congratulations to Loyalty Bookstores, Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md., which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this coming Saturday, March 2, at the D.C. store. The event begins with zine making and letter writing for Palestine from 3-6 p.m. From 7-10 p.m. the store hosts "a grown-up party with a DJ, refreshments, and good friends."

Loyalty noted that its "leadership will take this opportunity to shine some love on our supporters, and share a bit about what makes them so wonderful with all of you! We want you to join us in singing the praises of our author community, our faithful readers, and of course, the incredible booksellers that make it all happen!" The earlier community activity is free but sliding scale tickets are needed for the evening party, for which space is limited. More information here.

Image of the Day: Smoke Kings at Mysterious Books

Author Jahmal Mayfield (r.) visited Mysterious Books in New York City to sign copies of his debut crime novel, Smoke Kings, accompanied by Melville House publicist Michael Barson.

Personnel Changes at Sourcebooks

Michael Zuccato has been promoted to senior v-p, chief digital officer, at Sourcebooks. He has been with the company for more than 10 years, most recently as senior v-p, e-commerce and online marketing.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Kara Swisher on the Lead with Jake Tapper

Today Show: Hilton Carter, author of Living Wild: How to Plant Style Your Home and Cultivate Happiness (CICO Books, $45, 9781800652125).

Drew Barrymore Show: Danny Seo, author of Do Just One Thing: 365 Ideas for a Better You, Life, and Planet (Countryman Press, $17.99, 9781682688731).

The Lead with Jake Tapper: Kara Swisher, author of Burn Book: A Tech Love Story (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982163891).

Books & Authors

Awards: Montana Book Winner

The Lost Journals of Sacajewea by Debra Magpie Earling (Milkweed Editions) has won the 2023 Montana Book Award, which honors "literary and/or artistic excellence in a book written or illustrated by someone who lives in Montana, is set in Montana, or deals with Montana themes or issues."

The award committee said that in the winning title, "Debra Magpie Earling challenges prevailing historical narratives of Sacajewea. She brings to life a mythologized figure, while casting an unsparing light on the men who brutalized her and re-centering Sacajewea as the arbiter of her own history. Written in lyrical, dreamlike prose, The Lost Journals of Sacajewea is an astonishing work of art and a powerful tale of perseverance--the Indigenous woman's story that hasn't been told."

Honor titles were:
Holding Fire by Bryce Andrews (Mariner Books)
Lookout by Christine Byl (Deep Vellum)
Man, Underground by Mark Hummel (Regal House Publishing)
Mumblecusser by Allen Morris Jones (Drumlummon Institute)

Presentations and a reception for winning authors will take place April 17 during the Montana Library Association Conference in Butte.

Book Review

Review: The Funeral Cryer

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu (Hanover Square Press, $28.99 hardcover, 336p., 9781335016935, April 30, 2024)

British Chinese author Wenyan Lu writes sublimely of quotidian, quiet lives in her debut novel, The Funeral Cryer. Lu, born in Shanghai and educated at the University of Cambridge, identifies towns and cities of her birth country as settings for her fiction but relies on titles and descriptions rather than given names for her characters. That anonymity here deftly underscores the universality of human experiences--trust, betrayal, disappointment, hope, and, for the lucky, maybe love.

Lu's protagonist is the eponymous funeral cryer, hired usually by strangers to grieve the passing of a family member. Her "ability to cry and sing well had earned [her] a good reputation. People thought it was a genuine, heartfelt performance." She's "been crying at funerals for a living for about ten years," hers the only (sporadic) income supporting her and her indolent husband. Despite his unemployment--he claims mah-jongg winnings as his household contribution--he shows no gratitude to his working wife, repeatedly demeaning her with insults: "too old and ugly," "stupid woman." Mah-jongg gatherings keep him away much of the day, often into the night. As for the cryer, being "associated with death constantly" has made her the village pariah. In between funerals, she grows vegetables in her garden, collects "chicken poo" for fertilizer from a neighbor, and takes solitary walks in the nearby bamboo grove. The barber is the only person she sees regularly, when he prepares her hair for funerals.

As Lu establishes the couple's routines, she also nimbly integrates small disturbances that grow. Their unmarried daughter, living in Shanghai, becomes pregnant. The butcher's "young and pretty" wife is suddenly widowed--and doesn't know who the father of her unborn baby is. The cryer is warned, "People say you go to the barbershop too often." Her father dies; her mother unexpectedly moves in. The cryer continues to cry: "Miserable stories made me feel as if my life wasn't all that terrible; all the stories added a little excitement and life to my boring existence."

Lu is an astutely attentive writer, providing small details that cleverly imply broader meanings: the cryer wears her faraway daughter's left-behind clothing that doesn't quite fit; she can chat for a few minutes outside but can never go into a neighbor's home. Lest her protagonist seem more victim than active, Lu bestows the cryer with first-person agency to craft what proves to be a richly layered story. --Terry Hong

Shelf Talker: The everyday lives of nameless Chinese villagers populate British Chinese author Wenyan Lu's poignant novel The Funeral Cryer.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Girl Abroad by Elle Kennedy
2. Twisted Love by Ana Huang
3. Hell Is a World Without You by Jason Kirk
4. Our Fault by Mercedes Ron
5. Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
6. Poor Charlie's Almanack by Charles T. Munge
7. King of Wrath by Ana Huang
8. Where's Molly by H.D. Carlton
9. The Reason I Married Him by Meghan Quinn
10. Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton

[Many thanks to!]

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