Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 21, 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


WNBA's Pannell Award Nominees

Nominees have been unveiled for the 2020 Pannell Award, which is co-sponsored by the Women's National Book Association and Penguin Young Readers Group and honors bookstores that "enhance their communities by bringing exceptional creativity to foster a love of reading and books in children and young adults." One Pannell Award is given to a general bookstore and one to a children's specialty bookstore. Check out the complete list of this year's Pannell nominees here.

The Pannell Awards will be presented May 29 during the BookExpo Children's Book & Author Breakfast. Each of the two winners receives a $1,000 check and a framed signed original art piece from a children's book illustrator.

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

TidePool Press Opening Bookstore in Worcester, Mass.

Independent publisher TidePool Press will open TidePool BookShop, a new, 1,600-square-foot independent bookstore, in Worcester, Mass., in March. 

According to owners Huck and Jo Truesdell, the store will carry books for all ages and across all genres, with a particularly robust children's section. And while the store will feature titles published by TidePool Press, TidePool Bookshop will carry plenty of titles from other publishers as well.

The bookstore is slated to open in a refurbished mill building that is also occupied by restaurants, salons, medical offices and a variety of other businesses. The owners reported that there has already been a great deal of support from the community, with area institutions being "very receptive" to collaborating with the store. One of the first such partnerships that they've lined up is an agreement to handle book sales for the American Antiquarian Society's lecture series.

Each month, TidePool Bookshop will feature a different TableTopic, which is a display centered on a single topic that incorporates fiction and nonfiction titles for childreen, teen and adults as well as corresponding non-book items. The TapleTopic for April, for example, will be Paul Revere, and is timed to coordinate with an exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum.

Their event plans, meanwhile, include not only author talks and children's story hours but also Friday evening wine-and-cheese gatherings, where local writers, artists and musicians, as well as professors and students from local colleges and universities, can meet and mingle. Despite the store not being open yet, the Truesdells have already hosted some author events; on January 10, they hosted Lisa Gruenberg, who read from her memoir My City of Dreams.

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

Coronavirus Book Trade Update: 'Only Time Will Tell'

In addition to its tragic impact on the health of people in China and elsewhere in the world, the coronavirus (covid‑19) outbreak is also affecting the book trade. Yesterday Shelf Awareness shared news of how the disease has effectively shut down business for Chinese private booksellers. In addition, a children's book publisher subsequently told us, the printing of a particular title "is looking like it will be delayed," though they cannot know for certain yet. 

The latest e-newsletter from the New England Independent Booksellers Association explored how the coronavirus is hitting book supply chain. In a Notes from the Advisory Council column headlined "Only Time Will Tell," Cindy Raiton, president of sales at Bookazine, wrote: "Sometimes, while getting caught up in the minutiae of the bookselling world, we can overlook world events and how they can have an effect on the supply chain in our own industry. Right now everyone is rightly focused on the media attention over the coronavirus; how to prevent a real pandemic from taking place, necessary precautions to make sure that it does not continue to spread, etc....

"There are so many global circumstances happening that it took a while until a light bulb went off and it came to mind that the publishing industry is so heavily reliant on new books being manufactured in and imported from China, especially children's books--a constant and rapidly growing genre--and high end, full color art and design books that have such nice price tags.

"Nobody knows what the true fallout of this scary situation will be, considering the Lunar New Year holiday break was extended into February in many cities and schools & factories may well stay closed in China until March. Several important and long-standing book events such as the Taipei Book Fair have already been postponed, and only time will tell if any Chinese participants will make it to the London Book Fair in mid-March. We'd sure love to see our friends and colleagues there if it's possible and safe for them....

"Publishers are scrambling to figure this all out right now, and it will take some time before we truly learn anything. We all have our fingers crossed that folks will be as safe as they can and that our industry can remain as steady as possible in these trying times."


With whole provinces in China on lockdown, "several printers who work with Chinese plants are having severe delays because of the outbreak, and now the first effect on comics have been announced," the Comics Beat reported. In a note to partners, Iron Circus Comics said that several titles scheduled for the winter and spring 2020 seasons have had their release delayed.

"We first thought only the earliest titles would be affected but as the situation worsens, nearly every title will miss its original pub date," publicist Jesse Post noted. "We don’t want to commit to new dates until we get solid word from our vendors that they are safe and healthy and able to return to work. But most Iron Circus titles originally slated for release between February and July will move to later in the season."

RHCB Launching Anne Schwartz Books, Random House Studio

Random House Children's Books will launch imprints Anne Schwartz Books and Random House Studio. For the past 15 years, Anne Schwartz and Lee Wade have published titles under the Schwartz & Wade Books imprint that have received nearly 400 starred reviews and numerous awards. The final S&W list will be released in the spring of 2021. The two new imprints are launching in the summer of 2021.

Anne Schwartz Books, led by v-p and publisher Schwartz, will focus on picture books, as well as select middle-grade and YA fiction and nonfiction titles, "publishing critically acclaimed titles by renowned authors and illustrators, and introducing innovative talent." Schwartz will report to Melanie Nolan, v-p and publisher, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Random House Studio, headed by v-p and publisher Wade, is focusing on picture books "with a strong and recognizable aesthetic, and they will also publish other formats, especially books with an illustrative or design component." Random House Studio will be part of Random House Books for Young Readers, and Lee will report to Mallory Loehr, senior v-p and publisher, Random House Books for Young Readers Group.

S&W team members Ann Kelley, Rachael Cole and Anne-Marie Varga will move into new roles within RHCB. Maria Modugno, executive director, editorial, will join Wade at Random House Studio.

"These new ventures are an exciting and natural next step for us as we continue to build our picture book publishing program at Random House Children's," said Barbara Marcus, RHCB president & publisher. "Both Anne and Lee had an enthusiastic appetite for the next chapter of their extraordinary careers to further hone their distinct creative styles, which you can see so clearly by the different titles they have each acquired over the years. Lee will now take on more solo editorial projects, as she has long been the design force for S&W. These new imprints will really enable us to expand both our literary and commercial footprint in picture book publishing in a focused way, with two of the most seasoned experts in the field. I am so eager to see their unique editorial approaches flourish with these new imprints, as they and their talented teams create books and stories that will entertain and inspire young readers for generations to come."

Obituary Note: David Clewell

David Clewell, former poet laureate of Missouri and a longtime professor at Webster University in St. Louis, passed away last Saturday at the age of 65, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Clewell began teaching at Webster in 1985 and published 10 books of poetry. His work "displayed a sense of playfulness," and he wrote poems about such varied subjects as aliens, UFOs, astronauts and conspiracy theories. He became Missouri's poet laureate in 2010, the second after Walter Bargen.

"He was an amazing teacher," said artist Patricia Clewell, David's wife. "Writing was his first love, but teaching was a close second."

In addition to teaching hundreds of students over the years, Clewell was a fixture at St. Louis poetry events. He was also a former bookseller at Left Bank Books and remained a "big friend" of the store throughout his career.

Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books, said in a touching tribute to Clewell that she was "heart-broken" by the news. She wrote: "He was kind and shy and funny and generous and a lover of all things obscure and surprising, including odd old books and literary ephemera. For years after he left our employ, he would gift us one of his framed finds that spoke of his love of the store. They hang on our office walls to this day." Kleindienst was also on the Missouri Poet Laureate Committee that appointed Clewell.

Throughout his career Clewell received numerous honors, including the Feli Pollak Prize in Poetry, the Lavan Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and the 1989 National Poetry Series. In 2017, he received a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts award from the Webster Groves Art Commission.


Image of the Day: Fun with Unicorns

Kamilla Benko launched the final book in her middle grade Unicorn Quest series, Fire in the Star (Bloomsbury) at the new McNally Jackson Seaport store in New York City. Benko had a craft table set up with fun unicorn activities and bookmarks, and the event was standing room only.

Bookish Wedding Engagement: [words] Bookstore

"Congratulations and our best wishes to Persie and Jules who recently got engaged at [words]! We're so honored to be a part of such a special memory. Love the shirts, by the way, Hufflepuff and Gryffindor make a great team," [words] Bookstore, Maplewood, N.J., posted on Facebook.

Bookstore Video: 'Bookseller to the Stars'

Chapters Bookstore in Dublin, Ireland, debuted a parody bookseller training video on social media, noting: "We've decided to open our archives to the public, and share our old staff training videos for aspiring booksellers to learn from. Here's Unit 1: Shelving, hosted by none other than @KillianBeashel, 'Bookseller to the Stars.' Stay tuned for future installments!"

The video's creators, Megan Devaney and Stephen Jordan, told the Irish Examiner they were surprised by the reaction to video, but "loved the feedback" and were pleased that "a lot of people found it funny and got the style of humor we were aiming for." Their goal was "nailing the cheesy aesthetic."

More episodes are planned featuring other members of Chapters bookstore staff. Jordan and Devaney hope that "in a world of faceless, corporate and online bookselling" the video shows that Chapters is "an independent, family-run bookshop, with tons of personality."

Hachette to Distribute National Geographic Partners

Effective October 1, Hachette Book Group will sell and distribute National Geographic Partners' printed adult and children's books in all global trade book markets, with exceptions in certain international territories.

National Geographic Partners is a joint venture between the Walt Disney Company and National Geographic Society and combines global National Geographic TV channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, Nat Geo People) with National Geographic's media and consumer-oriented businesses, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children's media; and ancillary operations that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. National Geographic Partners returns 27% of proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bridgett Davis on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Bridgett Davis, author of The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers (Back Bay Books, $16.99, 9780316558723).


CBS This Morning: Bryant Terry, author of Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes (Ten Speed Press, $30, 9780399581045).

TV: My Brilliant Friend Season 2; The Holdout

A new trailer is out for Season Two of My Brilliant Friend, based on the second book of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, The Story of a New Name. Rolling Stone reported that the trailer "opens with a harrowing scene in which Lenú (Margherita Mazzucco) pays her first visit to Lila (Gaia Girace) following the latter's honeymoon with her new husband Stefano (Giovanni Amura). After answering the door with sunglasses on, Lila removes them to reveal a black eye and tells Lenú, 'I've been wrong about everything.' "

Most of the second season was directed by showrunner Saverio Costanzo, with Alice Rohrwacher directing two of the eight episodes. My Brilliant Friend returns to HBO March 16.


In a "competitive situation involving multiple bidders," Hulu acquired the rights to The Holdout, a legal thriller drama from Oscar-winning writer Graham Moore (The Imitation Game) based on his latest novel, which was published by Random House this week, Deadline reported. The project, from ABC Signature and Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly's ABC Studios-based Timberman-Beverly Productions (Unbelievable), "has been put in development with sizable penalty attached."

Books & Authors

Awards: CILIP Carnegie, Kate Greenaway Longlists; PROSE Winners

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has released longlists for the 2020 Carnegie Medal (author of a book for children & young people) and Kate Greenaway Medal (illustrator). CILIP noted that the awards "are unique in being judged by children's librarians, while the Shadowers' Choice Award, recently added to the awards ceremony celebrations, is voted for by children and young people who shadow the medals."

Shortlists will be announced March 19, with the winners named June 17. Winners each receive £500 (about $650) worth of books to donate to their local library, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 (about $6,525) Colin Mears Award cash prize. Now in its second year, the Shadowers' Choice Award will be announced alongside the two medal winners. You can find the complete CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway longlists here.


The Association of American Publishers has unveiled winners in the 49 subject categories for the 2020 Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) Awards, honoring scholarly works published in 2019. See the winners here.

The subject category winners will compete for five awards--excellence in biological and life sciences, humanities, physical sciences and mathematics, reference works, and social sciences. The winners of those awards will compete for the top prize of the PROSE awards, the R.R. Hawkins Award.

Reading with... Kathleen Donohoe

photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Kathleen Donohoe is the author of Ashes of Fiery Weather. Her stories and essays have appeared in the Recorder, New York Stories and Washington Square Review. She serves on the board of Irish American Writers & Artists. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband and son. Ghosts of the Missing (Mariner Books) is her second novel.

On your nightstand now:

In Brooklyn, people set out boxes on their stoops. They write FREE on the side in black marker. Inside the boxes are books. Instead of saucers of milk for feral cats, it's books for feral Brooklynites. I keep my finds on my nightstand for a little while. Right now, it's Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, Flower Children by Maxine Swann and Ironweed by William Kennedy.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was 11 when I read A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry, which is about two teenage sisters, beautiful Molly and smart Meg. It's the book that gave me an awareness of sentences. That is, it's the first book I loved for the language as much as the story. It taught me that as much as it is about storytelling, writing is about word choice and how a sentence begins and ends.

Your top five authors:

Alice Munro, Ann Patchett, Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez and James Joyce.

Book you've faked reading:

This is a terrible answer for the times, but 1984 by George Orwell. I was assigned the book my senior year of high school, but I couldn't get through it. I watched the movie instead, the only time I've ever done that.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Borrowed Time by Paul Monette. This is a memoir about his relationship with his partner, Roger Horwitz, who died of AIDS in 1986. It should be read both as a history of the AIDS crisis and for its continuing relevance. Stigma still exists; AIDS is manageable now as a chronic illness--if you have lifelong access to the medication. And though, yes, it is a book about AIDS, it's ultimately not a death story but a love story and it is beautiful.  

Book you've bought for the cover:

Mr. Ives' Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos. I saw it on top of a pile of books in a used bookstore and walked towards it as if in a trance. The cover is a snowy street at night and there are no people, just blanketed cars. It exudes loneliness. I bought it without reading the jacket, but when I did, I wasn't surprised to learn it was about grieving the loss of a child.

Book you hid from your parents:

Wifey by Judy Blume. A copy got cycled around eighth grade, passed from girl to girl in my Catholic elementary school. The year before, it was Forever. Both years, the boys were oblivious. Judy Blume is a genius and I am willing to die on that hill, though I can't imagine anyone will ask.

Book that changed your life:

Around 1995, a friend gave me a copy of Alice McDermott's At Weddings and Wakes because she thought I'd like it. I refused to read it.

Then in 1998, McDermott won the National Book Award. Instead of Alice McDermott Won! a lot (not all) of the coverage skewed to Tom Wolfe Lost! To Alice McDermott?! I get that Wolfe was expected to win and Alice McDermott herself expressed her own surprise in several interviews, but come on. Out of pure spite, I went out and bought Charming Billy.

From the first pages, I understood that I'd been avoiding her out of fear. I thought if I read her books, I'd be left wondering why I should even try to write about working class, Irish-American, New York families. Of course, I'd already read plenty of books that match this description, but I sensed Alice McDermott was on another level. Which she is. Yet the effect of reading her books was not disheartening but encouraging. Charming Billy made me understand in a way I never had before that writing is not about subject matter as much as it is about voice. The Irish-American imagination is not singular.

Favorite line from a book:

There are many, of course, but a top one is from Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Cromwell is musing on how he could have told Cardinal Wolsey not to be rude to Thomas Boleyn because Mary Boleyn is the king's current mistress. He, Cromwell, wonders if he should have just said, "Back off, our prince is fucking this man's daughter."

I badly want to get in a fight and say this as the comeback line. I accept it'll likely never happen, though as a New Yorker, my odds are probably better than most.

Five books you'll never part with:

The Bloody Chamber by Andrea Barrett. This book is so wild and strange, it feels like if I lose my copy, the stories will vanish from the world.

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox. A master class in precision and pain.

Yellow Gentians and Blue by Zona Gale. I found it mis-shelved in a library rumored to be closing due to bankruptcy (it did). There's an inscription, unpunctuated, so it looks like this: 17 March 1928 Mary from Sterling. The book was coverless and stained. I thought, if they move the collection, this will never survive the purge. So I stole it.

The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell. His sentences. It's like he's paired words that have never been introduced before.

Birthday Poems: A Celebration, edited by Jason Shinder. I found it in a box of free books on a Brooklyn stoop, on my birthday.

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

The Changeling by Victor LaValle. It's one of those books where you just don't know what's real and what isn't. It's a brilliant evocation of parental love and fear, and a novel very much about trusting women.

Also, The Alienist by Caleb Carr. I stayed up through the night to finish it. It's the first mystery I recall reading where the murderer wasn't revealed to be a character already in the book.

Your favorite anthology:

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright: Christmas Stories by Women edited by Susan Koppleman. My sisters gave it to me as a Christmas present a long time ago. I leafed through it, interested, but Christmas was over. The following year, I found it randomly right at the start of the holiday season and read every single story. Now I re-read it every year. Among the contributors are Willa Cather, Ntozake Shange, Sarah Orne Jewett, Alice Childress and Pearl S. Buck.

Book Review

Review: Three Brothers: Memories of My Family

Three Brothers: Memories of My Family by Yan Lianke, trans. by Carlos Rojas (Grove, $26 hardcover, 304p., 9780802148087, March 10, 2020)

After decades of glimpsing autobiographical hints in his always intriguing, often surreal novels and short stories, Anglophone audiences get access to Yan Lianke's real life. Haunted by the passing of the men in his father's generation, Yan--one of China's most awarded, lauded authors--transforms his anguished loss into Three Brothers: Memories of My Family. At the burial of their last uncle in 2007, his sister prompted him, "Brother Lianke, you've written so many books, why don't you write one about our family?" Yan's decision to "absolutely... write something for them" becomes an "epiphany" about family bonds in life, unbreakable even in death. Duke University professor Carlos Rojas, who worked on Yan's previous four titles published in the U.S., returns as Yan's excellent translator.

Born in rural Song county in Henan Province, Yan survived a childhood of onerous deprivation during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and '70s. Although his chronically ill sister's medical needs depleted the family's funds, causing hunger and demanding hard labor, Elder Sister's sickness also provided Yan the opportunity to share whatever she read, while mind-numbing work underscored his determination to seek opportunities beyond the village. And yet, "While I was growing up, virtually the only thing I didn't lack was a feeling of warmth and protection." Yan's father, prematurely dead at 58, managed to fulfill his life goal of providing a residence for each of his four children upon their marriage.

Yan's First Uncle was the next to die, albeit at a more reasonable 83. Supporting a family of eight children on almost nothing, First Uncle's regular distribution of candies and crackers to the village children remains a joy-inducing memory. Debilitated by a gambling addiction in later age, First Uncle never left the tiny plot of land he called home. "If only he hadn't had to spend the entire life trying to survive," Yan surmises. "If only he had learned how to read, his prospects would have been limitless." A generation ends with Fourth Uncle's death at 69, from whom Yan learns the difference between living--"enduring day after day"--and life--"a sense of richness, of progress, and the future."

Originally published in 2009 in China, the U.S. edition opens with a new preface essay, "The Home from Which I Walked Away," dated October 2018. Yan offers an overview of his writing career since joining the army at 20, from his inspiring discovery of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind to his first publications, the changing tides of acceptance and rejection of his work, and, finally, at age 60, being given permission by his long-suffering 85-year-old mother: "You should write whatever you want, just as long as you return every year to visit me and this home." Meandering through his past, Yan shows you can--and should--go home again. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: After losing the last of the men of his father's generation, Yan Lianke intimately memorializes their admirable lives in Three Brothers.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'It's Like a Tiny Little Vision of Utopia'

"Can I can I ask you something" Will says and I say "Sure ask me something."
"How do you know all this?"
"I'm a f**king librarian

In Jenny Offill's brilliant novel Weather (Knopf), Lizzie is a librarian at the university where she was once a promising grad student ("I used to have plans! Biggish ones, medium at least.") and where one of her colleagues "has never liked me because I don't have a proper degree. Feral librarians they call us as in just wandered out of the woods."

I've been thinking about Lizzie since finishing the book yesterday. That's supposed to be what a good read does, I realize, though given the nature of this particular novel, I should probably also be thinking about the onrushing, out-of-control pre-apocalyptic environmental and societal freight train headed our way.

But today... I'm thinking about Lizzie ("There are little signs everywhere in the library now that say BREATHE! BREATHE! How did everyone get so good at this breathing thing? I feel like it all happened while I was away.").

And I'm thinking about librarians. "As the social fabric of our society has continued to unravel, libraries have become one of the last places where you don't have to buy anything and yet you are welcome. It's like a tiny little vision of utopia," Offill told the Guardian, which noted that she also mentioned the current interest in experimenting with libraries of tools and household appliances as evidence of this utopian instinct at work.

I wish I had a better memories of my own childhood library experiences. It's not something I'm nostalgic about. The public librarian in the small Vermont town where I grew up seemed to despise children (I don't think it was just me. I was an engaged early reader and a pretty good kid.) and was forever ushering us back out onto the street when we lingered too long in the children's book room. Hers was a determined, if ultimately futile, attempt to maintain order and, seemingly, to derail my need to read.

Eventually, however, I developed a love for libraries. I have a library card; I pay attention to developments in the field.

For example, I just learned that BookNet Canada has launched LibraryData, the country's first system for the aggregation and analysis of data from public libraries across the country. LibraryData is also integrated with BNC SalesData, the national sales tracking service for the Canadian English-language trade book market. Currently available only to libraries who contribute their data and pay a fee, later in 2020 other members of the book industry, including publishers and retailers, will be invited to access the system.

"Libraries have lagged behind book retailers when it comes to sharing and analyzing this level of data," said Jefferson Gilbert, executive director of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council/Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada. "By consolidating our data, we can speak for the reading habits of all Canadian library users and make sure our work is understood and appropriately valued by associations, publishers, the government and other industry participants. The facilitation of better communication stands to strengthen our role as advocates and stalwarts of the Canadian book industry."

If that's a little too inside baseball (inside library?) for you, here's something else I noticed this week. Actor Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) filmed a  promotional video for the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS). Appearing as the Wizard of the World Wide Web, he convenes an emergency meeting of the "elders of the Internet."

"Libraries have real people," the wizard explains to his cynical digital crew. "They get to know you and offer reading recommendations more personalized than any algorithm. They can even tell the difference between real and fake news.... Libraries have all the information that anyone could ever need, plus real spaces, fun educational programs, meet-up groups... you can even get a flu shot at the library."

Or how about this? To help mark the late author Toni Morrison's birthday Tuesday, the Beinecke Library tweeted a photo of "Two-Minute Seduction," her contribution to Jonathan Safran Foer's Cultivating Thought author series for Chipotle Mexican Grill in 2014.

Or this: The New York Public Library, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, recently released its "Top 10 Checkouts of All Time."

On a more serious note, British library advocate and BBC Two's University Challenge star Bobby Seagull was part of a group that presented a 10-point Manifesto for Libraries at the House of Lords in 2019, pushing the case for long-term funding for libraries. Last week, he wrote in the Big Issue: "Libraries are more than just books, they represent what it means to be truly human. They contain the minds of our ancestors as well as the latest thinking of contemporary minds. We need our libraries, as they are shining beacons of knowledge, sharing and inclusive communities.... The best way to show your support for libraries is to use them."

Right now, however, I'm still thinking about Lizzie: "The guy in the green coat keeps glancing at me. 'From the library,' I tell him, and he nods slowly, respectfully, it seems. 'Yes, yes, that's it,' he says. He has a slight accent and I wonder if he comes from some distant country where librarians are held in high esteem."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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