Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 11, 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


2020 Census Part of Mission for NYC's Word Up

With households around the U.S. set to receive 2020 Census materials in a little over a month, Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria in New York City's Washington Heights, is getting ready to become heavily involved in census outreach efforts. 

Leading up to and during the self-response period for the census, Veronica Liu, founder of the nonprofit bookstore, and her volunteer staff will put significant time and resources toward mobilizing around the census. The 2020 Census will be mentioned at every on-site and off-site event the store hosts and will become part of the store's "spiel" when customers purchase books. Customers and community members will be able to fill out the census form at the store, and Word Up will be programming directly around the census as well. Some of those plans include three book club events with TwentyTwenty Books during the self-response period; book fairs at schools and early childhood centers, where parents and guardians will be able to fill out the census then and there; and Liu has been asked by a few college groups to present on campuses.

Veronica Liu

Liu has also gotten a $25,000 grant from the New York City Complete Count Fund, a new city-wide census outreach program created in partnership between NYC Census 2020, the New York City Council and the City University of New York. Much of that grant money, Liu said, will be going toward translating census resources into Spanish and making sure there are Spanish-language interpreters on hand at all of the store's census outreach events.

Washington Heights is one of several areas in New York City where there are major concerns about an undercount. There are a number of reasons for those concerns, including the area's high proportion of Spanish speakers, given that the majority of standard census outreach is done in English and most materials are in English; there is a major push for online responses with this census, and around 30% of the community has little to no Internet access; there is a high degree of overcrowding in apartments in the area, and some residents may incorrectly think that answering accurately could expose themselves to repercussions from their landlords; and many people may still mistakenly believe that there is a citizenship question.

An undercount, Liu continued, can have significant consequences for a community, noting that as a result of the 2010 Census, Washington Heights received, among other things, five new schools and a new congressional seat. If this time around the community is only counted at, say, 70%, she said, it will receive only 70% of the resources it actually needs.

Liu explained that she sees her census outreach efforts as part-and-parcel with her bookstore's mission. That mission is all about access, and while day to day that mostly means bringing books to a hugely underserved community, she and her staff can, through the census, help bring much more to the area. At the same time, census data can hold a lot of practical value for booksellers.

"I feel like I've gone to so many bookstore panels and events where someone has questioned how we connect with the community," Liu recalled. "The first step is knowing what that community is."

Noting that the word "community" can often be as diffuse as the word "diverse," Liu said census data can allow a bookseller to see how closely they are actually serving their community. And with bookstores potentially serving as "harbingers of gentrification" or "agents of displacement," census data can help booksellers stanch that by simply being aware of who resides in a community and making sure their store's events and offerings invite them in.

Touching on Word Up's own history, Liu said she made extensive use of census data in the store's first few years. The bookstore began as a 15-month pop-up shop before moving to its permanent location, and despite the new space being just two blocks over and 10 blocks south of where the pop-up was, the new community was different enough that Liu and her colleagues added two new book sections and adjusted some price points for their used books. All of those decisions were made with the help of census data, and she noted that in a neighborhood like hers, where there is such a high demand for Spanish-language books, census data can help her determine if she should be bringing in books written in Dominican Spanish, Mexican Spanish or another Spanish dialect.

"This is about being able to write the story of our neighborhood together," said Liu. --Alex Mutter

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

N.H. Bookstore's Added Role: Campaign Central

At the Bookery Manchester in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary of 2020 today, the political season began in April last year. That was when, Inc. magazine reported, "Cole Riel, a state representative and New Hampshire deputy political director for Pete Buttigieg," arrived at the store. The campaign didn't yet have an office in Manchester, "so Riel worked out of the Bookery's café where, among other things, he held hiring meetings. Soon after that a staffer from Elizabeth Warren's campaign set up temporary shop."

The pols didn't introduce themselves to the Bookery's owners. "But we felt this palpable buzz. There were more and more young people coming in," co-owner Liz Hitchcock said. "I started asking them, what's going on?" She then noted that the store had a conference room available for rent, and "several campaigns, including Amy Klobuchar's, have used that space for meetings of up to 20 people."

Michael Bennett visited the Bookery.

When Buttigieg and Warren staffers moved to regular offices, the Bookery took on a new role in the runup to the primary, hosting candidate talks and meet-and-greets. "We have had Michael Bennett and Pete Buttegieg and Andrew Yang," Hitchcock said. "Marianne Williamson had about 100 people in the store after she had announced the end of her campaign. We have not had Joe Biden. But Jill Biden, his wife, has come in and spoken."

And in the past week, the campaigning became more intense, as the store "hosted a meet-and-greet with Tom Steyer and Buttegieg's debate-watching party. Amy Klobuchar's daughter turned up. Michael Bennett popped in again, this time with a reporter to shoot some video."

The store has also prominently displayed books by the candidates as well as photos of them in the windows and political polls. Besides books, the Bookery is selling "first in the nation" swag, including ski hats and foam fingers. Today it plans to give free doughnuts to voters.

Founded in 2018 in Manchester's historic downtown as a place "where people can have conversations about civics, politics, or education," the Bookery didn't anticipate becoming a campaign hub--and yet it's in by a landslide.

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

BookExpo: Adult Book & Author Breakfast Lineup

The lineup for BookExpo's Adult Book & Author Breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, May 28, has been announced. Zerlina Maxwell, radio host and MSNBC political analyst, will host and discuss her new book The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide (Hachette Books), which will hit stores just a few days earlier, on May 26.

Joining Maxwell will be United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, there to present When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, a Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry featuring the work of more than 160 poets from nearly 100 indigenous nations; bestselling author Carmen Maria Machado, who will discuss her upcoming comic book debut, The Low, Low Woods, a new horror comic from Joe Hill's imprint at DC; U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.), onstage to showcase her forthcoming memoir, This Is What America Looks Like, arriving from HarperCollins on May 26; and fantasy author Rebecca Roanhorse, there to discuss her novel Black Sun, the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy about four warring matriarchies vying for power, to be published by Gallery/Saga Press.

"We're humbled to be able to showcase such a powerful group of authors whose latest works come from such varied and meaningful perspectives," said Jennifer Martin, event director of BookExpo. "The Adult Book & Author Breakfast allows us to bring together important writers who reflect the current publishing climate, and I can't wait for our attendees to learn from their valuable insights."

David Cully to Receive BISG Lifetime Service Award

The Book Industry Study Group 2020 industry award winners, who will be presented with their awards at BISG's annual meeting April 24 in New York City, are:

David Cully

David Cully, former president of Baker & Taylor, is receiving the Sally Dedecker Award for Lifetime Service. He was at B&T from 2008 until retiring last year and earlier had worked at Barnes & Noble, where he was president of B&T Distribution, Simon & Schuster, Putnam Berkley Publishing Group and Waldenbooks. The award will be presented by Aman Kochar, executive v-p & general manager of B&T, and Joe Gonnella, v-p, publisher relations, B&N.

Janet McCarthy Grimm, recently retired from Lindenmeyr Book Publishing Papers as v-p of sales, is receiving the Industry Champion Award. She has worked on behalf of book publishing on the boards of the Book Manufacturers' Institute, the Book Industry Guild of New York, Poets & Writers, and BISG, as well as volunteered at many other organizations.

Rachel Comerford, senior director of content standards and accessibility at Macmillan Learning, will receive the Industry Innovator Award. Over the past several years, Comerford's team at Macmillan Learning revamped workflows to reliably deliver accessible learning materials. In 2019, Benetech named Macmillan Learning its first Global Certified Accessible Publisher.

Obituary Note: Stephen Joyce

Stephen Joyce, grandson and last surviving direct descendant of James Joyce "and the formidably rigid gatekeeper" of the author's coveted literary estate, died January 23, the New York Times reported. He was 87. Confirming the death in a statement, Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins said Joyce had been "deeply committed to what he saw was the special duty to defend the legacy of the Joyce family in literary and personal terms," though it was "not a task carried out in harmonious circumstances at all times."

Noting that he "gleefully maintained an iron grip on his grandfather's printed works, unpublished manuscripts, letters and other material," the Times wrote that "his hold loosened somewhat on the 70th anniversary of James Joyce's death, when most copyrights on his masterpieces like Ulysses and Finnegans Wake expired. He said he was safeguarding the material's literary integrity and defending them from critics and biographers, whom he likened to 'rats and lice' that 'should be exterminated.' "

"I am not only protecting and preserving the purity of my grandfather's work, but also what remains of the much abused privacy of the Joyce family," he told the New Yorker in 2006.

Now that the material controlled by Stephen Joyce is part of his estate and its future uncertain, "the most likely immediate impact of his grandson's death will be the freeing of aggrieved scholars to ventilate, without fear of retribution, about how Mr. Joyce had thwarted their research for decades."

"I think now there will be more open reflection on the role Stephen Joyce played in impeding so many projects," said Anne Fogarty, director of the James Joyce Research Center at University College Dublin. "He saw himself as gatekeeper, but was very often quite obstructive."


Image of the Day: Prejudential Launch

Margaret Kimberley, author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents (Steerforth), speaks at her book launch at the People's Forum in New York City. (photo: David Rhodes)

Snow Angel, Indie Bookstore Style: Read It Again

Read It Again, Suwanee, Ga., shared a photo of its bookish alternative to a snow angel, noting: "We are open! What a perfect day to curl up next to a window, read a book and watch the world go by. My question is, do you have something to read? If not, don't worry. I know a guy."

Booksellers on TV: The Ripped Bodice

Yesterday, sisters Bea and Leah Koch, co-owners of the Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles, Calif., appeared on the 3rd Hour of TODAY to talk about their experience running the first all-romance bookstore in North America and to spotlight "how they’re pushing boundaries to change the narrative around the genre."

Later, they tweeted: "It made me tear up when they showed a picture of our whole family when we were little and our Mom was alive. It’s bittersweet to build a business and a life without her here to see it. But she’s the reason we do what we do and we are who we are."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Char Margolis on Live with Kelly and Ryan

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Char Margolis, co-author of The Universe Is Calling You: Connecting with Essence to Live with Positive Energy, Love, and Power (St. Martin's Essentials, $25.99, 9781250258694).

Movies: The Thicket

Additional cast members have been named for a film based on Joe R. Lansdale's novel The Thicket, Deadline reported. Sophia Lillis (It), Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) and Charlie Plummer (Looking for Alaska) will join Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) in the project, which has a script by Chris Kelley and will be directed by Elliott Lester (Nightingale).

Producing are Giannia Nunnari of Hollywood Gang, Dinklage and David Ginsberg of Estuary Films, Matt Hookings of Camelot Films, Shannon Gaulding, and Andre L III of MiLu Entertainment. Deadline noted that "the Exchange will be shopping the movie at the upcoming EFM. CAA Media finance and ICM Partners are co-repping domestic."

"We are thrilled to bring this strong commercial project with an amazing ensemble cast to Berlin," said Brian O'Shea of the Exchange. "Rapace and Dinklage are global stars in their own right, but to also have up and coming talent as Lillis and Plummer in The Thicket makes the project truly exciting."

Books & Authors

Carol Shields Prize for Fiction Launches

The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, a new annual literary award named in honor of the late, renowned Canadian author, will be launched in 2022, awarding C$150,000 (about US$114,135) to a work of fiction by a woman or non-binary writer, CBC Books reported. The prize will be open to English-language books published in the U.S. or Canada, including translations from Spanish and French. Writers must be citizens and current residents, for at least five years, of either country. The first three years of the prize are being funded by an anonymous corporate donor.

Describing the prize money as "a nice round figure," Canadian novelist Susan Swan, one of the founders, added: "I've always thought the prize money had to be a lot of money because it's not just a national prize. This is a statement of our belief that the excellence of women's writing deserves to be paid well."

Initial planning began in 2012 after Swan participated in a discussion of the status of women in writing on a panel that included Kate Mosse, who established the U.K. Women's Prize for Fiction, and Australian writer Gail Jones. It was moderated by Shields's daughter Anne Giardini.

Citing arts organizations like VIDA and CWILA, Swan said that women writers are reviewed in publications far less than their male counterparts, CBC Books noted, and "historical numbers for major literary awards are particularly dismal--only 15 women have won the Nobel Prize for Literature since 1910 and about a third of the winners of Canada's oldest literary prize, the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, have been women." The results were even bleaker for women of color and non-binary writers.

For the Carol Shields Prize, Swan said, "We will try to make sure there is a solid diverse group of women serving as jurors and build a database to that effect.... We will try to follow Roxane Gay's suggestion to me in an e-mail a few years back that we look beyond race and ethnicity as a marker of diversity and include queer women, working class women, women with disabilities and transgender women."

The prize will have three jurors: a Canadian, an American and a third international judge. It will be awarded annually in the spring, preceded by a longlist of 15 books and shortlist of five books. The four finalists will receive C$12,500 (about US$9,510). Plans include a mentorship program for emerging writers. Also under discussion are awards for writers who are recent immigrants, refugees, single mothers and students.

Book Review

Review: Writers & Lovers

Writers & Lovers by Lily King (Grove Press, $27 hardcover, 320p., 9780802148537, March 3, 2020)

Three cheers--heck, make that four--for the writer who pulls off a fairly plotless novel. When there's not a lot going on, readers need gripping emotional stakes, which means extraordinarily deft characterizations. Naturally, it helps when a protagonist is unusually engaging, smart or sympathetic. In a neat hat trick, Lily King (Euphoria) plants all three qualities in Casey Peabody, the narrator of her plot-light but payoff-heavy fifth novel, Writers & Lovers.

It's the summer of 1997, and things aren't going well for 31-year-old Casey: her mother has recently died. She's just been dumped. She has medical problems but no health insurance. Her father is a slimeball. She's tens of thousands of dollars in debt to Duke University and to a Pennsylvania school where she earned an MFA. The novel on which she has been working for six years is so far from completion that it doesn't even have a title.

Casey has recently returned to the Boston area--"I didn't mean to move back to Massachusetts. I just had no other plan." To chip away at her debt and make rent on her apartment, a former potting shed, Casey works across the river at Iris, an upscale restaurant in Cambridge's Harvard Square. One night, at a book party for the novelist Oscar Kolton, Casey meets another writer, Silas, and later accepts a date with him, which he proceeds to break. His dodgy-sounding excuse: "I had to leave town. For a while. I'm not sure how long."

One Sunday, Casey encounters Oscar Kolton having brunch at Iris with his two young sons. A 47-year-old widower, Oscar woos Casey, and they start seeing each other. When Silas leaves Casey a couple of phone messages, she ignores them--"I'm done with guys like this, on and off, here then gone"--but she succumbs when he drops by the restaurant. Casey dates both men until Oscar invites her over for Sunday dinner so that she can get to know his kids. Now she feels obliged to pick a side: "I've reached the elimination round."

Despite Casey's habitual teariness, her wit and chirpy optimism carry Writers & Lovers. It's not clear why the novel, with its timeless themes--choosing between the practical and the creative life, choosing between (as Casey's colleague puts it) "fireworks and coffee in bed"--had to be set in 1997, but the book's title, with its fulcrum-like ampersand, makes perfect sense. While romance is often a conundrum, resolving an artistic dilemma can be equally flummoxing. Laments Casey at one point, "I've been stuck on the same scene for a week. I can't get my characters down the stairs." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: King's sparkling fifth novel centers on a young woman trying to find love and artistic success, not necessarily in that order.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Inappropriate by Vi Keeland
2. Thanatos (Guardian Security Shadow World Book 4) by Kris Michaels
3. Heartland by Sarina Bowen
4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
5. Bishop's Endgame by Katie Reus
6. Cavas (The Vorge Crew Book 5) by Laurann Dohner
7. Darker Than Love by Anna Zaires and Charmaine Pauls
8. Dear Ava by Ilsa Madden-Mills
9. The Dare by Lauren Landish
10. Protecting What's Mine by Lucy Score

[Many thanks to!]

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