Also published on this date: Wednesday, January 15, 2020: Maximum Shelf: The Fixed Stars

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 15, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Quotation of the Day

'The Good Beginning'

"We, too, have become better booksellers, publishers, and--dare I say it--improved citizens. More agile in thought and deed, and more aware of the consequences of how we go about this business. Back in 2010 if the trade had a care about the diversity of its publishing or its people, or the import of its products, such sentiments earned not a mention in either our backward or forward-facing pieces, as we dwelt instead on the decline of the celebrity memoir, an over-reliance on brand-authors and the struggling high street. Galley Beggar publisher Sam Jordison is right to say that we faced the challenges of the past decade by 'producing better quality books and reasserting the value of what we do'.... If the 2010s were about content and formats, and the supposed unlatching of one from the other, the next 10 years will likely be about who gets to publish the content, and who delivers it to readers."

--Philip Jones, editor of the Bookseller, in a column headlined "The good beginning"

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace


AAP Sales: Industry Slips 0.8% in October; Up 3.6% for YTD

Total net book sales October 2019 in the U.S. fell 0.8%, to $1.132 billion, compared to October 2018, representing sales of 1,361 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the first 10 months of the year, total net book sales rose 3.6%, to $12.57 billion.

Children's/YA hardcovers and paperbacks had the strongest performance in the month, with net sales up 29.3% and 21.7%, respectively. Adult trade paperbacks were up a more modest 3.2%. But adult hardcovers dipped 4.6% and adult mass markets had one of the worst months in record, falling 38%.

Higher ed also had a disastrous quarter, with net sales down 67.9%. The AAP commented that "year-to-date revenue in this category is down 12.7% to $2.5 billion, attributable in part to an ongoing decline in spending on course materials as students take advantage of new, cost-effective options that publishers have made available, including rental options for both print and digital materials, loose-leaf versions, and creative new distribution models such as Inclusive Access and subscription services." By contrast, sales of K-12 materials were up 10.3%.

Sales by category in October 2019 compared to October 2018:


G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Landlord, Minority Owner Dispute Book Culture Owner's Accounts

Chris Doeblin rallied neighbors outside Book Culture on Columbus last week.

Following the sudden closure of  Book Culture on Columbus last week, after the property was seized by city marshals over unpaid rent, the bookstore's landlord and minority co-owner have disputed much of what Chris Doeblin, the majority co-owner, has said about the situation, Gothamist reported.

While Doeblin has called the seizure "indicative of the main problem we have in America right now," and an instance of wealthy elites and corporations conspiring against a small business, Tom Quinlan, Doeblin's landlord, and Peter Porcino, attorney for Book Culture co-owner John MacArthur, have denied those claims.

Quinlan told Gothamist that his intention is to make sure a bookstore remains in the Columbus Ave. storefront, but without "Chris at the helm." He said Doeblin has had issues paying rent since 2016 and that his company has tried to work with Doeblin on payment plans, but he "never really met those obligations."

Doeblin and MacArthur, who is also the publisher of Harper's, have meanwhile been in litigation over Doeblin's efforts to raise funds for the store, including a community-lending program that has raised more than $570,000 since last summer. MacArthur has alleged that Doeblin is misleading Upper West Side residents about where the money is going, essentially using the Columbus Ave. location to raise funds for the three other Book Culture locations around New York City, of which Doeblin is sole owner.

Porcino added that MacArthur has been offering to buy out Doeblin, saying: "To the extent he's trying to raise money for this store that he has no other source of funds is false. We are offering to lend him money, so he shouldn't be saying to the public, 'I have no other way to finance my store.' "

Doeblin has denied the charges in legal filings and said MacArthur "is coercing me to leave for nothing, and that's again part of the problem here, part of the essential problem we face in America is exactly that. Why should my family walk away from something we built?"

Bookselling 2019 Update: U.K., France & Germany

Independent booksellers in several European countries celebrated a successful 2019, despite the many challenges they face. In the U.K., the Bookseller's Indie Bookshop Christmas Trading Survey found that around 40% of respondents said sales over the 2019 holiday period were excellent and 42% said sales were very good. The majority of respondents also saw an increase in sales year on year, with indies reporting gains between 7% and 30%.

As Brexit continues to loom large in the U.K., the survey found indies were split on its impact, with 54% saying the issue is affecting trade and 46% saying it is not. The survey also discovered that 62% of booksellers said economic uncertainty was the biggest threat to their business next year, followed by online competition (44%) and Brexit (36%). Despite the challenges, 67% of booksellers are optimistic about 2020 and just 10% pessimistic.

The Booksellers Association reported that, following more than two decades of decline, the number of independent bookshops in the U.K. and Ireland increased for the third consecutive year. Indies in the BA's membership at the end of 2019 grew to 890 shops, up from 883 in 2018 and 868 in 2017.

"It is very heartening to see the number of independent bookshops in the U.K. and Ireland grow for a third year," said BA managing director Meryl Halls. "This is testament to the creativity, passion and hard work of our booksellers, who continue to excel in the face of challenging circumstances, particularly those wider high street challenges which so often see bookshops out-performing their high street peers....

"We do however need to frame this positive growth in a wider context. Across the U.K. and Ireland, retailers still face issues around online competition and unequal business rates, all against a backdrop of uncertainty around Brexit and the economy. No high street can survive solely on bookshops; all retailers need to be supported and championed in order for the retail landscape to thrive."

French Bookshops 'Irreplaceable'
French booksellers continued their upward trajectory in 2019. Citing data from the Observatoire de la librairie, the European and International Booksellers Federation reported that "French bookshops can look with satisfaction at the state of bookselling in 2019. Despite the disruptive impact of strikes, particularly during the last month of the year, turnover increased by 7.1% over the span of the full year."

Xavier Moni, president of the Syndicat de la librairie française, said, "Despite a turbulent social context which has weighed on the activity of some of our stores, especially during the holidays, independent bookshops do more than merely resisting, with growth far superior to that of the French economy. This is proof that the work in supporting and showcasing the works that we discover on a daily basis is bearing fruit. Through the competence of its teams, and the quality of its offer, the bookshop remains unique and irreplaceable. By continuing to carry this requirement in this new year 2020, it is my conviction that that we will continue to attract new readers to our bookshops."

Sales up in Germany
In Germany, despite a mostly challenging month of December, "bookshops were able to conclude the year with an 0.5% increase in turnover for the whole year," the EIBF wrote, citing the January edition of Branchen-Monitor BUCH. "Taking into account all main retail channels, turnover rose by 1.4% compared to the previous year."

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, head of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, commented: "2019 was a good year for the book industry. The positive sales development shows that the relevance of the book in our society remains unbroken. In a tense competitive environment, publishers and bookshops continue to develop their business. We are working on new measures in all areas of the industry to ensure that books and reading are brought into everyday life even more."

Binc Opens DPI Scholarship Application Process

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation, in collaboration with Sourcebooks and the Denver Publishing Institute at the University of Denver, have opened the application process for a scholarship to attend DPI, the four-week-long summer program (July 12-August 7) at the university that is taught by industry professionals who work for trade, university, textbook and independent publishers throughout the country.

The application process--which will go through DPI's admission application--is open to booksellers who are currently employed (full- or part-time) at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, with a tenure of at least 90 days, and are employed by the bookstore at the time of the program. The scholarship, worth up to $7,000, includes tuition, room and board, and up to $2,000 to cover travel and lost wages. Applications will be accepted through February 26.

"It is such a joy to be working with our good friends at Binc on a joint scholarship that supports a program that is absolutely vital to our publishing community," said Valerie Pierce, director of marketing, retail & creative services at Sourcebooks. "DPI helps educate the next generation of our industry, and several former students are now part of the Sourcebooks family."

Kate Kenney of Boulder Book Store, who won the scholarship last year, told Binc: "I'm so grateful... to attend the Denver Publishing Institute. Having been a bookseller at independent bookstores across the country, it was a dream come true to be able to learn more about the book industry with DPI's prestigious program."

DPI director Jill Smith said, "Booksellers are vitally important to the publishing community because of their direct relationships with readers. Our goal is to help them grow in their careers, whether they continue to grow their roles in retail or move into different positions within book publishing."

Booksellers can find out more details and apply here.

Obituary Note: Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer, "a lyrical Southern writer whose novels and short stories explored the conflicts and inner lives of ordinary people and families and communities drawn from her native Mississippi and from decades abroad in Italy and Canada," died December 23, the New York Times reported. She was 98. Her death was confirmed by the playwright Craig Lucas, who adapted her novella The Light in the Piazza (1960) for the stage.

Spencer published nine novels, eight short story collections, a memoir and a play. Her novel The Voice at the Back Door (1956) was unanimously chosen by a Pulitzer Prize jury, "but the governing committee chose to give no prize for fiction in 1957. Some critics have said that Ms. Spencer's candor about virulent segregationist racism was the reason," the Times wrote.

Ship Island and Other Stories (1968), Spencer's first collection, was dedicated to her friend Eudora Welty, who later wrote the foreword to The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer (1981).

Her best-known work, The Light in the Piazza, was originally published in the New Yorker and selected as a National Book Award finalist. It was later adapted into the 1962 film starring Olivia de Havilland, and as a 2005 musical, written by Lucas with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, that won six Tony Awards.

Spencer was a five-time winner of the O. Henry Award for short stories and in 2007 won the PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, "placing her in the company of writers such as Alice Munro, whom film critic Molly Haskell once described as Ms. Spencer's 'sister under the skin,' " the Washington Post noted.

With Walker Percy, Shelby Foote and others, she helped found the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a nonprofit organization that nurtures the development of literature in the South.


Image of the Day: "Hey, Matt...?"

Booksellers from Copperfield's, Petaluma, Calif., gathered to celebrate "our fearless leader, best manager ever, and most patient pug-owning guy we know. We thought it best that we commemorate the most oft-used phrase here in the store: 'Hey, Matt...?' " as manager Matt Brown transitions from 25+ years in the store to the main office in Sebastopol. Today is his last day in the store. Amber Reed will take the helm as manager; Ray Lawrason will continue as assistant manager, and Patty Norman will continue to direct kids events.

Pictured: (l.-r., back row) Sarita McKay, Barbara Spicer, Mark Warren, Amber Reed, Patty Norman, Howard Belove, Ellen Skagerberg, Ross Lockhart; (front row) Katie Wigglesworth, Sophie Zagerman, Ray Lawrason, Daniel Waller, Jeremy Carpenter.

Sean Doolittle: Pitcher or Bookseller?

Sean Doolittle (r.) at Capitol Hill Books

Sean Doolittle, star relief pitcher for the World Series champion Washington Nationals and noted indie bookstore fan, was mistaken for a staff member on the sales floor at Capitol Hill Books last Saturday, where a wine and cheese party was being held to celebrate a co-owner's wedding as well as "pretty much everyone's birthday," DCist reported.

In town for the Winterfest event at Nats Park, Doolittle "messaged the Capitol Hill Books owners on Twitter to let them know in advance that he was coming. Once there, he took note of the store's three stories, maze-like floor plan, and floor-to-ceiling book stacks, marked with witty name cards," DCist wrote.

"I love used bookstores because it's always an adventure and it feels so good to give old, used books a new home!" Doolittle tweeted.

He even signed the wedding book for co-owner Aaron Beckwith, who was married earlier in the day. Beckwith's brother, Dave, had stopped Doolittle while he was browsing the shelves and asked: "Excuse me, do you work here?"

Co-owner Kyle Burk said, "I think I answered for him saying, 'No, but we're trying to sign him.' And Sean laughed." Yesterday, Capitol Hill Books tweeted: "Oddly, we are rarely mistaken for professional athletes."

Doolittle left "with a handful of sci-fi novels and a tote bag, and an appreciation for the store's list of banned words and phrases (think 'like' and 'literally')," DCist noted, adding that he "has about a month of uninterrupted reading time" before pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 12.

Simon & Schuster to Distribute Humanoids

Effective March 1, Simon & Schuster will handle sales and distribution to markets and territories worldwide for Humanoids, Inc.

Humanoids, with headquarters in Hollywood, Calif., and branches in Paris and Tokyo, was co-founded 46 years ago in Paris by a trio of artists, including legendary creator Mœbius, and has published thousands of titles since, including international bestsellers and iconic series such as the Incal and the Metabarons.

Personnel Changes at Counterpoint Press/Catapult/Soft Skull

At Counterpoint Press/Catapult/Soft Skull, effective in early February:

Rachel Fershleiser will be associate publisher, executive marketing director. Previously she was the senior director of marketing for Knopf.

Alyson Forbes will be associate publisher, head of sales. Previously she was v-p, executive director of marketing strategy, for Hachette Book Group.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Alicia Menendez on the View

The View: Alicia Menendez, author of The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed as You Are (Harper Business, $28.99, 9780062838766).

TV: Binti; Station Eleven

Hulu has given a script order for an adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor's Hugo and Nebula award-winning Binti trilogy. The Hollywood Reporter noted that Stacy Osei-Kuffour (Watchmen, PEN15, The Morning Show) will co-write the script with Okorafor. The studio is Media Res, the banner launched by former HBO drama head Michael Ellenberg, who will executive produce alongside Osei-Kuffour and Okorafor.


Gael García Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle, Coco) has been cast as Arthur, "a famous actor from a small island off the coast of Mexico," in HBO Max's Station Eleven, a 10-episode limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel's novel, Deadline reported. The project will be written and executive produced by Maniac creator Patrick Somerville, who will also serve as showrunner, for Paramount TV.

Books & Authors

Scotiabank Giller Prize Now Open to Graphic Novels

The Scotiabank Giller Prize, the richest prize in Canadian literature with an annual award of C$100,000 (about US$76,590) to the year's best work of fiction, announced that for 2020 it will be accepting graphic novels among its submissions for the first time, CBC reported. Mark Sakamoto, nonfiction writer and past Canada Reads winner, will chair the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize jury, which also includes Canadian novelists Eden Robinson, David Chariandy and Tom Rachman, as well as British critic Claire Armitstead.

Reading with... Tiffany Jewell

photo: James Azar Salem

Tiffany Jewell is a black biracial writer, anti-racist Montessori educator and consultant. She is cofounder of #AntiRacistBookClub, an Instagram campaign that recommends anti-racist books. This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work (now available from Francis Lincoln/Quarto) is her first book for children and young adults.

On your nightstand now: 

It's an ambitious stack... always. I usually (try to) read multiple books at once. 

Black Appetite. White Food. by Jamila Lyiscott
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeomo Oluo
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (available in March)
There There by Tommy Orange
Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World by Cleo Wade
Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown 

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams. I feel like it was the first book I could relate to--our family was me, my sister and our mom. My nana was a big part of our daily life too, just like the girl in the book. I also loved the illustrations and would get lost in them... I wanted that big rose chair. It was also a Reading Rainbow read and I really took those recommendations to heart!

Your top five authors:

Zadie Smith
Audre Lorde
Haruki Murakami
Ibi Zoboi 
Malcolm X

Book you've faked reading:

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and about half of the books I was required to read for my English degree. I really was not interested.

Recently friends from #DisruptTexts reminded me that the literary canon is a social construction that is disproportionately comprised of mostly books written by dead white European men... hence why I wasn't interested in reading many of them. It's hard to stick with a book when you cannot relate to it at all.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. This is the book I recommend to anyone and everyone. It so clearly walks us through understanding racial identity development (in all people) and gives us the language and the research to support racial literacy with all children and families. 

Book you've bought for the cover:

The U.K. version of When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bendele. It's absolutely beautiful. 

Book that changed your life:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.

It was assigned reading for a freshman seminar while at a small women's college in upstate New York. The professor offered to the class a choice: we could read The Autobiography of Malcolm X or watch Thelma & Louise. (This was an English seminar titled "Failure and Success in America.") Most of my classmates chose Thelma & Louise

I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X over the course of two days that summer. Until then, I had only heard about him as being divisive and an advocate for violence. His words (as told to Alex Haley) told me the story of his life I had not known and really pushed me to seek truth.

Favorite line from a book:

One that has stuck with me recently: "Somewhere inside me there must be an inherited wisdom from my ancestors since I can muster up the ability to play roles that offer guidance and strength." --from Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan.

Five books you'll never part with:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race
Caucasia by Danzy Senna
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith, illus. by Danielle Daniel

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Danzy Senna's Caucasia. It was the first book in which I really saw myself. The sisters looked like us. Their family make-up was similar to ours. I read it in my early 20s but I shouldn't have had to wait so long. The moment when I saw myself in a book--I think I read the whole thing while holding my breath.

Books you love sharing with children:

Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel
The ABCs of the Black Panther Party by S. Khalilah Brann and Chemay Morales-James, illus. by Uela May
I Am Enough by Grace Byers
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin 
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Book Review

Review: Dandelion's Dream

Dandelion's Dream by Yoko Tanaka (Candlewick, $16.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 3-7, 9781536204537, February 11, 2020)

Scads of things happen in Yoko Tanaka's Dandelion's Dream; that the book's goings-on are a cinch to follow is all the more impressive given that they're relayed with nary a word.

One night, a dandelion in a field goes through a rather unexpected transformation: it morphs into an actual lion, its leaves now limbs and its flower a lion's face with a yellow orb of mane. Once Dandelion gets over his surprise, he jumps on top of a train: Why not see the world? A sharp turn sends Dandelion flying; fortunately, a sheep's woolly back breaks his fall. Dandelion rides the sheep to a ship that takes him to a big city, a Manhattan look-alike in which he barely comes up to pedestrians' ankles. The star of Dandelion's Dream may be a lion, but he's still the size of a flower.

Dandelion dodges shoes and tires and takes shelter in a cinema. On the screen, kids dressed in clothes suggesting an earlier era play outside, tossing around toy airplanes. Having already enjoyed travel by train and boat, Dandelion is understandably intrigued, so he hops aboard a biplane. By now, it's nighttime, and Dandelion soars high above the city, whose gauzy lights gradually become the original field of dandelions, with most of the flowers having matured into seed heads. Once Dandelion is back on the ground, he turns into a mature dandelion--at least temporarily. As a dandelion, he releases some of his puffy seeds, as do his neighbors, and the white tufts blow off into the night, gradually assuming the shape of a lion in flight--a hint that even when rooted to the earth, a curious mind can take us anywhere.

In her first outing without a collaborator, Tanaka works in charcoal enhanced by digitally applied flashes of dusky yellow that she reserves for Dandelion's mane, tail tuft and airplane. As she did with the titular mammal in Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant, Tanaka finds bottomless humanity in the animals of Dandelion's Dream: besides the sheep who cushions Dandelion's fall, there's the bird who extends a wing on the ship so that the little lion can get out of the rain. Then again, it's a human child who shares her popcorn with Dandelion during the movie. Tanaka's point seems to be that when someone is willing to lend a hand, a dream can really take flight. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: In this beguiling wordless picture book, a dandelion morphs into a little lion who explores the big city.

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