Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 9, 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


Seattle Indies Take Precautions Against COVID-19

With King County, Wash., the center of the worst novel coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. so far, booksellers in the Seattle area are taking a variety of precautions against the disease and adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

Perhaps the most immediate impact of the outbreak has been the widespread cancellation of events. At University Book Store, which has locations throughout Seattle, the majority of March events have already been canceled by the authors themselves or their publishers. While UBS hopes to eventually reschedule as many of the events as possible, no concrete plans are yet in place.

Robert Sindelar, managing partner of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Ravenna and Seward Park, reported that it's "certainly been a weird week," and while sales are slightly down across the three stores, the coronavirus has so far had less of an impact on sales and foot traffic than severe weather and snow storms typically do.

Recognizing that many people are simply trying to stay put as much as possible, Third Place recently ran a promotion offering free shipping via the store's website, and that has resulted in a nice uptick in online sales. Sindelar added that Third Place has received a lot of positive feedback related to that promotion and it seems to be generating a lot of good will. Third Place has also seen a lot of event cancelations, though some have gone on as planned.

Sindelar and his colleagues are sharing all health recommendations issued by local, state and federal officials with staff and are encouraging staff to stay home if sick. The store provides health insurance as well as sick and vacation pay to its employees, and Sindelar said he has not seen any more employees call in sick than there would be in a normal week.

"It still seems very early to have any real understanding of what the longer term impact of all this will be," said Sindelar. "It's definitely a day-by-day assessment and will probably continue to be for a while."

Janis Segress, general manager and co-owner of Queen Anne Book Company, said the coronavirus outbreak has had a minimal effect on the store's business so far. Daily sales have "hung in there," and have not shown a decline per date. Segress attributed these steady sales to a number of things, including launching a home book delivery service for customers in the neighborhood. Segress said they've had about a half dozen home delivery orders so far and customers are very appreciative of the offer.

The store also has a Book Angel, an anonymous donor who gives a quarterly donation to QABC with the aim of getting books in the hands of children in need. This quarter, the donor chose to make the donation earlier than usual, and Segress said she feels fairly confident that the outbreak factored into the donor's choice.

As the outbreak has grown, Segress and her staff have posted on their own and the store's social media about the importance of supporting local small businesses who are losing sales. Segress noted that over the weekend, the store's online sales increased around 50% over the daily average.

"We're grateful for our customers' awareness of daily lost sales and their support of us via the web when they can't make it to the store in person," Segress said.

At Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island, there has not been a significant reduction in people coming into the store, "including ferry travelers from Seattle and beyond," co-owner Jane Danielson said. "Customers are aware of the concerns and appreciative that we are open for business."

Currently the only major problems involve two events, one postponed and the other canceled. For both events, the store brought in extra inventory, and the canceled one, featuring Thomas Lennon, included two school events, which were also canceled. As a result, the store has many prepaid book orders from parents of the schoolchildren who expected the books to be signed during the event, "so we are working through how to deal with these orders," Danielson noted. "We have also had two offsite events postponed, to be rescheduled at a later date."

Eagle Harbor has communicated with staff in writing and at a meeting about changes based on state guidelines. Hand sanitizers are available to staff and customers at all point-of-sale locations, and tissues are available throughout the store. Store and restroom signage outlines the store's response to the virus--and the restroom signage reminds customers and staff to wash hands carefully. Staff know not to come to work if they are feeling ill with cold or flu symptoms, Danielson noted.

Eagle Harbor has also instituted an hourly cleaning program that includes thoroughly wiping down surfaces at all workstations, bathrooms, door handles, phones, keyboards, point-of-sale areas, etc., using cleaning solutions recommended by public health websites. A specific staff person is scheduled each hour to do these cleanings throughout the day, and the cleaning methods and schedule are posted on the staff bulletin board. --Alex Mutter

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

In Five Days, Grand Central Announces, then Cancels Woody Allen Autobiography

Last week was an extraordinary week at Hachette Book Group, which announced the publication of a major book on Monday; was immediately and vehemently criticized on social media by a major author and many of its own staff; saw a protest walkout by some staff members on Thursday; and ended the week by cancelling the book.

The series of events began a week ago, when Grand Central Publishing announced that it would publish Apropos of Nothing, Woody Allen's autobiography, on April 7. Grand Central described the book by "the writer, director, and actor" as "a comprehensive account of his life, both personal and professional, and describes his work in films, theater, television, nightclubs, and print. Allen also writes of his relationships with family, friends, and the loves of his life." The deal apparently was made last year but kept under wraps.

Reaction was highly negative, focusing on the allegation that in 1992, Allen sexually abused his daughter Dylan Farrow when she was seven years old. Although that allegation was investigated twice by authorities without any charges filed, the allegation has dogged Allen, and made all the more powerful by the #metoo movement, which was unleashed in part by Ronan Farrow, Allen's long-estranged son, who has championed his sister Dylan.

Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow, who last October published Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators with Little, Brown, another Hachette imprint, stated on Tuesday that Hachette "concealed the decision [to publish the Woody Allen book] from me and its own employees while we were working on Catch and Kill--a book about how powerful men, including Woody Allen, avoid accountability for sexual abuse." He added: "I've encouraged Hachette, out of respect for its readers, authors and reputation, to conduct a thorough fact check of Woody Allen's account, in particular any claim that implies my sister is not telling the truth. I've also told Hachette that a publisher that would conduct itself in this way is one I can't work with in good conscience."

And Dylan Farrow issued a statement that read in part: "Hachette's publishing of Woody Allen's memoir is deeply upsetting to me personally and an utter betrayal of my brother whose brave reporting, capitalized on by Hachette, gave voice to numerous survivors of sexual assault by powerful men.... Hachette's complicity in this should be called out for what it is and they should have to answer for it."

Michael Pietsch

On Tuesday, Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch told the New York Times, "Grand Central Publishing believes strongly that there's a large audience that wants to hear the story of Woody Allen's life as told by Woody Allen himself. That's what they've chosen to publish."

By Thursday, executives at Hachette held several town meetings with upset staff and, in the afternoon, Hachette employees numbering from "dozens" to as many as 100, left their offices in New York City and Boston to protest the decision to publish Woody Allen's book. Out-of-office messages left by some participants, many of whom were from Little, Brown, read in part: "We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow and survivors of sexual assault."

Later on Thursday, after the walkout, Hachette issued a statement saying, "We respect and understand the perspective of our employees who have decided to express their concern over the publication of this book. We will engage our staff in a fuller discussion about this at the earliest opportunity."

The next day, last Friday, Hachette announced that it was cancelling Apropos of Nothing, which it called a "difficult" decision. "At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.

"Also, as a company, we are committed to offering a stimulating, supportive and open work environment for all our staff. Over the past few days, HBG leadership had extensive conversations with our staff and others. After listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG."

Some groups and people have been cautionary about the series of events. PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel issued this statement on Friday: "This case represented something of a perfect storm. It involved not just a controversial book, but a publisher that was working with individuals on both sides of a longstanding and traumatic familial rupture. This presented unique circumstances that clearly colored the positions staked out and decisions taken. If the end result here is that this book, regardless of its merits, disappears without a trace, readers will be denied the opportunity to read it and render their own judgements. As a defender of free speech and the availability of a wide breadth of books and ideas, we also fervently hope that the outcome does not lead publishers to shy away from manuscripts that editors think are worthwhile but that are about, or even by, people who may be considered contemptible."

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

Half Price Books in Houston, Tex., Closes After Rent Hike

The Half Price Books location in the Rice Village neighborhood of Houston, Tex., closed its doors yesterday following a 40% increase in rent, the Rice Thresher reported.

"Rent costs in the area have gone up to the point where we can no longer afford to stay in our current locaiton," Emily Bruce, HPB's public relations manager, said. "We've looked for another location nearby, but have not been able to find a viable option, as of now."

Rice Village has undergone quite a bit of change recently, with a number of investment companies buying property and enacting "their new visions for the district," according to the Thresher. Several new businesses, including two high-end restaurants, have opened in the area around Half Price Books, driving up overall rent costs.

The bookstore's management team was unable to reach a compromise with the store's landlord, Dutch Line Properties. Bruce said they considered subleasing a portion of the space, but even then there was "no clear path for the location to be profitable with the skyrocketing rents."

Half Price Books ran extensive sales last week, and on Saturday and Sunday, shoppers could take home an entire bag of books for $10.

Obituary Note: Betsy Byars

Betsy Byars

Betsy Byars, the author of award-winning works of children's literature "drawn from the real world, with heroes and heroines who survive their lonely, sometimes broken existence by caring for one another," died February 26, the Washington Post reported. She was 91. Byars wrote more than 60 books "for those in-between children too young to be called big and too old to be called small."

Among her best-known works was The Summer of the Swans (1970), which received the Newbery Medal. Byars said that after her Newbery win, "she had to install a larger mailbox to accommodate all the letters from young readers and other inquiries she received," the Post wrote, adding: "No work, she reported, elicited more mail than The Pinballs (1977), a novel about three children--Carlie, Thomas J and Harvey, called 'pinballs' for what seems to be their destiny to bounce around--who are placed together in a foster home."

Her other books include The Night Swimmers (1980), which won a National Book Award; Edgar Award-winner Wanted... Mud Blossom (1991), one of several titles about the Blossom children; The Midnight Fox (1968), The Glory Girl (1983), Coast to Coast (1992) and a memoir, The Moon and I (1991).

The Post noted that "some of her most popular books were part of the Bingo Brown series. "If there is such a thing as a typical American kid, Bingo Brown is it," author Fannie Flagg wrote in a New York Times review. 'He is funny and bright and lovable without being precocious,' while also serving as a vehicle for 'serious themes like puberty, unwanted pregnancy, changing roles for men and women in society, etc.' "

"Every time I sit down to write a book, I feel like that character in the old fairy tale who, in order to survive, has to spin straw into gold," she told the School Librarian. "What I know about spinning straw is nil, and I have learned from hard reality that no little man in a funny suit is going to pop out of the woodwork to strike a deal.... We authors write the best we can, with what skills we have, what tricks we've learned, and then if we are lucky, very lucky, the straw actually will be turned into gold, for a fleeting moment by the miraculous mind of a child."


Image of the Day: Tour of the Universe

New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, Va., hosted physicist and author Brian Greene at the Paramount Theater. Greene, who spoke about his new book, Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe (Knopf), awed the audience with his grand tour of the universe. (Photo: Rob Garland Photographers)

Video: IWD London Feminist Bookshop Tour

Penguin Platform featured a London Feminist Bookshop Tour video with Jean Menzies and Rowan Ellis. "We went on a tour of London's best bookshops which specialise in books about and by women! Come with us to discover the Second Shelf, Gay's the Word, Housmann's, Pages Cheshire Street--and some of our favorite books for International Women's Day!"

Hopkins Fulfillment Services to Distribute Modern Language Association

Effective in April, Hopkins Fulfillment Services will manage warehousing, fulfillment, and sales representation for the publications program of the Modern Language Association.

Founded in 1883, the Association has more than 24,000 members and works to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literatures. Widely known for the MLA Handbook, now in its eighth edition, the Association produces a range of resources for teachers, students, and researchers, including translations for classroom use, texts on professional matters, and book series. Recent titles include Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia E. Butler, The MLA Guide to Digital Literacy, The Arab Renaissance: A Bilingual Anthology of the Nahda, and Approaches to Teaching Bechdel's Fun Home.

"MLA book publications offer a rich and wide-ranging set of resources for our members, the professions they represent, and their students," said MLA executive director Paula Krebs. "The MLA is therefore delighted to work with Hopkins Fulfillment Services to bring these resources to a wider audience."

Davida Breier, director of HFS, which is a division of Johns Hopkins University Press and provides distribution services for university presses and nonprofit institutions, said that "MLA's mission and publishing program are an ideal match for HFS. Our distribution and sales services will help MLA advance its mission, engage its members, and reach a wide audience of students and scholars. MLA's outstanding work in the humanities closely aligns with the programs of all of our publishers."

Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster

Susan Fissell has been promoted to director, special markets, at Simon & Schuster. She  was previously national accounts manager, specialty retail & wholesale.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Richard J. Lazarus on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Glennon Doyle, co-author of Untamed (The Dial Press, $28, 9781984801258). She will also appear on Tamron Hall.

CBS This Morning: Celeste Headlee, author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving (Harmony, $25, 9781984824738).

The Real: Grace Byers, author of I Believe I Can (Balzer + Bray, $18.99, 9780062667137).

NRP's Here & Now: Richard J. Lazarus, author of The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, $29.95, 9780674238121).

Fresh Air: James McBride, author of Deacon King Kong (Riverhead Books, $28, 9780735216723).

Daily Show: Mikki Kendall, author of Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot (Viking, $26, 9780525560548).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Daymond John, co-author of Powershift: Transform Any Situation, Close Any Deal, and Achieve Any Outcome (Currency, $28, 9780593136232).

Tamron Hall: Dan Abrams, co-author of John Adams Under Fire: The Founding Father's Fight for Justice in the Boston Massacre Murder Trial (Hanover Square Press, $28.99, 9781335015921).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt, author of The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable (Pamela Dorman Books, $20, 9781984878250).

Daily Show: Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, authors of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning (Little, Brown, $18.99, 9780316453691). They will also be on CBS This Morning.

TV: Wings of Fire

Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar, When They See Us) is teaming with Warner Bros Animation to develop Tui T. Sutherland's Wings of Fire book series into a television project. Deadline reported that in the "first animated effort for the A Wrinkle in Time director, the exclusive rights to Sutherland's sweeping fantasy and multi-dragon POV publications of 15 novels, a trio of graphic novels and four short stories were sealed by WBA after a pitched bidding process."

Sutherland will serve as executive producer on the series along with DuVernay, WBA's Sam Register, Dan Milano and Christa Starr. DuVernay's ARRAY Filmworks company will produce the Wings of Fire series with WBA.

Books & Authors

Awards: Stella Shortlist

The shortlist has been released for the A$50,000 (about US$33,145) Stella Prize, which was created to "recognize and celebrate Australian women writers' contribution to literature." A winner will be named in Sydney April 8. This year's shortlisted titles are:

See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill
Diving into Glass by Caro Llewellyn
There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
Here Until August by Josephine Rowe
The Yield by Tara June Winch
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular February Books

The two most popular books in February at Reading Group Choices were The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (Sourcebooks Landmark) and The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister (Griffin).

Book Review

Review: Code Name Hélène

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon (Doubleday, $27.95 hardcover, 464p., 9780385544689, March 31, 2020)

Novelist Ariel Lawhon (Flight of Dreams) writes bold female characters who have a knack for bending the truth: from the three women implicated in the 1930 disappearance of a New York judge (The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress) to a woman who may or may not have been the last surviving Romanov princess (I Was Anastasia). In her fourth novel, Code Name Hélène, Lawhon turns her attention to Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, a scrappy Australian runaway who became a nurse and a journalist (under her own name) and then a spy with Britain's SOE (under several aliases) during World War II. Moving between Nancy's exploits in France toward the end of the war and several other periods in her life, Lawhon spins a captivating narrative of a woman who would stop at nothing to defeat the Nazis and who was as comfortable handling a revolver as her signature red Elizabeth Arden lipstick.

Lawhon's narrative begins in the winter of 1944, as Nancy (hungover but determined) jumps out of a plane into occupied France. She sweeps readers into Nancy's wry, fast-talking, first-person account of her adventures, taking readers deep into the French countryside with Nancy and her compatriots and then flipping back to Paris, where Nancy meets her future husband, Henri Fiocca. Determined not to give him the advantage, Nancy is nevertheless disarmed by Henri's good looks and quiet strength of character. Their love will sustain them throughout the war, as both (especially Nancy) face increasing hardship and danger. Having witnessed a horrific scene of Nazi torture in Vienna before the war, Nancy has a particular vendetta against a Nazi officer called Wolff, but she is intent on three larger aims: providing the French Resistance with arms and supplies, using all means at her disposal to take down the Nazis and taking no guff from any man about her gender.

While Nancy cuts a vivid, stylish figure through the novel's pages, her supporting cast is also well drawn: Henri, her patient husband; Stephanie, Nancy's friend who introduces her to Henri; and Nancy's fellow SOE agents, including her stalwart partner (code name Hubert) and their wryly humorous radio operator, Denis Rake. Their feats of daring and gritty survival tactics are drawn largely from true accounts by Nancy and others, but Lawhon's elegant plotting makes them shine. Known as La Souris Blanche--the White Mouse--for her ability to wriggle out of tight corners, Nancy was anything but mousy. Bold, confident, dryly witty and driven by a strong sense of justice, Nancy (no matter which name she uses) is a fascinating character. Lawhon's gripping narrative gives "Hélène" her due. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Ariel Lawhon's elegant, powerful fourth novel tells the gripping story of socialite spy Nancy Wake during World War II.

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