Shelf Awareness for Monday, November 18, 2019

Yearling Books: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Pantheon Books: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Scholastic Press: The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong

Tor Books: The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson


Bookstore Sales Dip 2.3% in September

In September, bookstore sales fell 2.3%, to $954 million, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the first nine months of the year, bookstore sales have fallen 5.6%, to $7.4 billion.

By comparison, independent bookstores have done better than the Census Bureau average, which includes a range of retailers that sell books. Through October 10--slightly longer than the nine-month period measured by the Census Bureau--sales at ABA member stores, as reported to the weekly bestseller lists, are down 0.3% compared to the same period in 2018. Compound annual growth among ABA member stores is 7.5% during the past five years.

Total retail sales in September rose 3.8%, to $499.2 billion. In the first nine months of the year, total retail sales rose 3.6%, to $4.43 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon

Eslite's 24-Hour Bookstore Closing--First Time Since 1989

Eslite's bookstore in the Daan neighborhood of Taipei, Taiwan, which claims the title of "the first 24-hour bookstore in the world," is closing on May 31, 2020, when its lease ends, Taiwan News reported. Eslite management said that the company will introduce a new 24-hour bookstore, but hasn't yet decided on a location.

The Daan store opened in 1989 and was Eslite's first bookstore, attracting "bibliophiles from Taiwan and abroad wishing to experience its beauty and unique 24/7 availability." Eslite has since expanded and now has 44 stores in Taiwan, three in Hong Kong, two in China and one in Japan, which it opened in September.

In the time remaining in its space, the Daan store will host a series of events, including "the 1991 antiquarian bookshop and print on demand (POD) exhibitions as well as creative bazaars," Taiwan News added.

GLOW: Putnam: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Obituary Note: Carol Brightman

Carol Brightman, "who wrote a book on the novelist and critic Mary McCarthy, a traveler in rarefied literary circles, then wrote another on what might be considered McCarthy's polar opposite, the Grateful Dead," died November 11, the New York Times reported. She was 80. Early in her career Brightman was known for her involvement in 1960s issues, including the founding, in 1965, of Viet Report, an influential newsletter about the Vietnam War. She traveled to both North Vietnam and Cuba during that period.

"Carol was one of the first to make vivid that an antidote to mass media was needed to understand the truth about what was going on in Vietnam," said novelist Beverly Gologorsky, who was Viet Report's managing editor.

Brightman was perhaps best known, however, for three books: Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World (1992), which Susan Brownmiller described in her Chicago Tribune review as "a thoughtful, utterly admirable venture, written with the kind of balance and fairness that McCarthy herself was not wont to display"; and Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1949-1975 (1998).

Her third notable title was Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead's American Adventure, which "brought a nonfan's perspective to the Grateful Dead phenomenon," the Times noted, adding that Brightman "wasn't a complete outsider--her sister, Candace Brightman, was the band's lighting designer for many years--but she attended her first Dead concert only in 1972, years after the group had begun to draw attention. In the book she contrasted her own 1960s activism with the Dead's apolitical, mellow worldview."

"I didn't know it then," she wrote in the introduction, "but I was witnessing the genesis of a movement whose takeoff was related to the breakdown of my own. If the climate of the '60s made you feel things could be changed and were worth changing, the climate of the '70s, more like today's, counseled retreat from storms over which you had no control."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Love & Other Scams by Philip Ellis

Sidelines Snapshot: Gardening Tools, Buttons, Puzzles and Cat Bow Ties

Enamel pin from Wildship

At The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., sidelines buyer Nikita Imafidon reported that notebook tidies, glasses cases and other small organizational items from companies like IF have been very popular lately, with Imafidon adding that she was "surprised" by how often people ask for them. Enamel pins have also been huge, and Imafidon pointed to licensed pins from Ideal Bookshelf and nature-based pins from Wildship Studio as standouts. Recently Imafidon has brought in some different kinds of natural crayons made from beeswax by the company Honeysticks, and she said the customer response has been exciting.

Bow ties for cats from Sweet Pickles Designs

When asked about other children's sidelines, Imafidon said that puzzles are a mainstay, and that she's never seen a time when children's puzzles haven't sold well. She sources a lot of them from Chronicle Books and New York Puzzle Company. On the subject of locally made sidelines, Imafidon said she brings in a lot of greeting cards made by local artists, as well as some notebooks. And in terms of perennial favorites, she said customers come back every year for calendars and planners, particularly the ECOlogical Calendar by Chris Hardman, and Cat Bow Ties from Sweet Pickles' Designs are very popular.

Buttons from Word Emporium

In Chapel Hill, N.C., Flyleaf Books has had success recently with tea towels from Radical Tea Towel, as well as stickers and buttons from Word Emporium Sticker Company. Owner Jamie Fiocco reported that she didn't think buttons would be so popular, but at only $1.50 per button, her store sells "hundreds of them." Fiocco also recently brought in wooden 3D puzzles from German company Fridolin, which are called "IQ-Test." As for locally and regionally made sidelines, Fiocco noted that Word Emporium is local, and that she carries a lot of greeting cards made by local artists. Some of her store's perennial favorites, meanwhile, include socks from Blue Q, greeting cards from Notes & Queries and Blackwing pencils.

Miya bowls

Ann Leyhe, co-owner of Mrs. Dalloway's Literary & Garden Arts in Berkeley, Calif., reported that her store generally carries sidelines that are either gardening-related, kitchen-related or something literary. Some of her gardening items include things like shovels, digging forks, trowels and other tools imported from English firms like Spear & Jackson and Burgon & Ball, as well as a variety of seeds and seed-starting kits from local suppliers. When it comes to kitchen-related sidelines, Leyhe said she's done well with bowls from the Japanese company Miya and an assortment of items like hand-screened aprons and potholders from local artisans. Organic tea sourced from a company in Bellingham, Wash., Flying Bird Botanicals, is also a staple.

Big Dipper candles

Lately, Leyhe said, Blackwing pencils and scarves from Rock Flower Paper have been selling well. She sources candles from Big Dipper Wax Works in Seattle, Wash., which are perennial favorites, and on the subject of children's-focused sidelines, Leyhe said she carries puzzles and matching games from Chronicle Books and Hachette Book Group, along with a variety of things from Maileg. Leyhe added that she visits the NY Now gift show each year in August to source items for the holiday season, and always seeks to round out her sidelines inventory with items from local artisans. --Alex Mutter


Image of the Day: Montana Writers on a Million Acres

Gulch Distillery in Helena, Mont., was the venue for the official launch event for the anthology A Million Acres: Montana Writers Reflect on Land and Open Space (Riverbend Publishing). Pictured: (from left) contributors Keir Graff (also editor), Jim Robbins, Caroline Patterson and Alexis Bonogofsky (also photographer). Chelsia Rice of Montana Book Company, Helena, handled book sales at the event. Photo: Glenn Marx

Changing Hands' Cindy Dach: ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year

Cindy Dach

Congratulations to Cindy Dach, CEO and co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., who received the 2019 ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year Award in the private sector on Friday from the Greater Phoenix Chamber. The ATHENA Awards, named after the Greek goddess of courage and wisdom, is a program of ATHENA International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating leadership opportunities for women.

According to AZ Business magazine, Dach was cited for setting "a national standard for successfully operating and elevating the art of being an independent bookstore. During her nearly 20 years at Changing Hands, she has transformed the business by curating an elite speaker series, fostering community connections through events, and increasing annual sales by $5 million.

"In addition to her work establishing diverse and innovative revenue streams for her business, Dach has dedicated herself to breathing life into Phoenix's arts and culture scene. Her focus on arts and community was instrumental in the creation of Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, which she helped establish. From business to community service to mentoring other bookstore operators, she is forging a path for a business that serves the bottom line and the community."

Dach commented: "The ATHENA Awards empower and connect a network of impactful women who are shaping the future. As leaders, it is important for all of us to simultaneously link arms and hold out our hands. We must lead with kindness because kindness creates hope. And hope brings us to our next task at hand, to listen, and then ask how can we help?"

Asked about advice for women who are beginning their careers, she said, "Be humble and confident. Listen. And be fearless."

Hood Ornament of the Day

Atria and Skillset magazine teamed up to promote Jack Carr's thriller series Terminal List with this car entered in the 2019 Buckeye Demolition Derby this past Saturday. The Carr car gave a valiant effort, but ultimately had to quit after several jarring hits broke the throttle.

Personnel Changes at Abrams

At Abrams:

Jessica Wiener has joined the company as senior director of marketing, adult books. Most recently, she was marketing director at Henry Holt.
Kim Lew has been promoted to senior manager of marketing, adult books.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Vashti Harrison on Good Morning America

Today Show: Andrea Barber, author of Full Circle: From Hollywood to Real Life and Back Again (Kensington, $27, 9780806540887).

Good Morning America: Marie Kondo, co-author of Kiki & Jax: The Life-Changing Magic of Friendship (Crown Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9780525646266).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone: A Novel (Riverhead, $26, 9780525535270).

Good Morning America: Vashti Harrison, author of Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9780316475143).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Nicole Rucker, author of Dappled: Baking Recipes for Fruit Lovers (Avery, $32, 9780735218017).

TV: The Flight Attendant

T.R. Knight (Grey's Anatomy) has been cast as a series regular in HBO Max's series The Flight Attendant, starring and executive produced by Kaley Cuoco, Deadline reported. The project, based on Chris Bohjalian's novel, also stars Sonoya Mizuno, Michiel Huisman, Colin Woodell, Zosia Mamet, Merle Dandridge and Griffin Matthews.

Books & Authors

Awards: Aspen Words, Simpson/Oates Longlists

Aspen Words has announced the longlist for the $35,000 2020 Aspen Words Literary Prize, which honors "fiction with a social impact." Five finalists will be named February 19, 2020, and the winner will be celebrated at an awards ceremony in New York City on April 16. To see the 16 books on the longlist, click here.


A longlist has been released for the $50,000 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize, recognizing mid-career authors in fiction. The award is administered by the Simpson Project, a collaboration of the Lafayette Library & Learning Center Foundation and the University of California, Berkeley, English Department. Shortlist finalists will be announced in early March 2020 and winner in early April. To see the longlist, click here.

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular October Books

The two most popular books in October at Reading Group Choices were Pretty Guilty Women: A Novel by Gina LaManna (Sourcebooks Landmark) and Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Book Review

Review: Africaville

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin (Amistad, $27.99 hardcover, 384p., 9780062913722, December 10, 2019)

The town of Africville exists, designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1996. The small coastal community on the edge of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was home to black residents since the early 1800s, the majority with southern U.S. and Caribbean origins. Narrative magazine assistant editor Jeffrey Colvin mines the settlement's little-known history to create his epic debut novel, Africaville, the result of 20 years of research and writing. Colvin follows four generations of a widely scattered family over most of the 20th century in a peripatetic journey that crosses multiple borders: between identities defined and denied by skin color and complicated relationships, between freedom and imprisonment, between truth and omission.

Kath Ella and Omar--acquainted since childhood--share a brief summer romance that ends with pregnancy and death. Years before, in 1923 Mississippi, the incarceration of Matthew and Zera Platt--"for mischief at the governor's houseboat"--enabled the young lovers' eventual union; the Platts' six-year-old son, Omar, was sent to be raised by his Canadian grand-uncle in Halifax. The adult Omar's fatal accident leaves Kath Ella a single mother to an infant named to memorialize his late father--until Kath Ella marries Timothee, a white man, in Montreal. Timothee was happy to adopt Kath Ella's toddler, but wanted to rename the younger Omar as Etienne. Already the child of light-skinned black parents, Etienne legally becomes a white man's son, effectively dismissing his Africaville heritage for decades.

Etienne continues to increase the distance--emotionally and physically--from his Canadian birth by marrying and having a son of his own, moving to Vermont, then Alabama. He begins his new job at Montgomery A&M, with its now "thirty percent colored" student population, where he's hired to "ensure colored registration did not regress to its former low levels." With his white wife and white upbringing, Etienne's "colored" background remains unrecognized, effaced by perceptions and assumptions he never quite challenges.

As civil rights protests intensify in the early 1960s South, news reports about a local preacher (Martin Luther King, Jr., is implied) hardly elicits a reaction from Etienne. Not until distant (black) Halifax relatives confront him about "crowing"--"that means a colored person is passing for white"--does Etienne begin to acknowledge, albeit half-heartedly--his ancestry. His cursory attempt to visit his grandmother Zera Platt, who is still alive and imprisoned just one state over in Mississippi, is summarily rejected. Years pass, until Etienne's son Walter becomes the connector, forging a circuitous path that finally brings the surviving family "home."

In Colvin's carefully constructed family saga, erasure by death, neglect, loss--both intentional and situational--loom from one generation to the next. Despite departure and distance, Africaville ultimately proves to be a tenacious reclamation of story, of place, of belonging. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: The centuries-old yet little-known history of a black coastal settlement in Nova Scotia inspires Jeffrey Colvin's affecting multi-generational debut novel, Africaville.

Powered by: Xtenit