Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 12, 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


ABA and Dealing with the Coronavirus

We wish to offer an official welcome to Allison Hill, who became CEO of the American Booksellers Association on March 1. What a week and a half it's been. In her first general letter to membership, published yesterday in Bookselling This Week, a reference to threats to indies included a new one--"rising costs, an election year, a pandemic, a looming recession, and" (See the full letter here.)

In a BTW roundup of how some stores are promoting shopping local during the coronavirus pandemic, Hill said, "As people practice social distancing to protect themselves, their instinct is to shop chain stores for 'one stop shopping' in lieu of their favorite bookstores, hardware stores, or other independent businesses. If your store has an e-commerce site, remind customers that they can shop with you online and that you appreciate their support right now. Partnering with a local delivery service may be another option to help serve customers who don't feel comfortable coming into your store right now.

"I'm always reminded at times like these how important it is that we walk the talk and make sure that we're all supporting other indie businesses. Check in with other indies in your area and see how you can cross-promote each other's businesses, support one another, and work together to raise community awareness about the critical need to support local businesses right now."

In addition, as noted in BTW, the ABA has set up a new page on that details event updates, general information about the outbreak, and resources for retailers. And on BookWeb's Bookseller-to-Bookseller Forums, there is a new thread for stores to "share best practices during the outbreak, including how to stay healthy, how to handle related personnel issues, how to cut costs if sales are down, how to handle cancelled events, and other topics members want to share."

In related ABA news, because of the coronavirus outbreak, association staff will not attend the remaining 2020 spring forums being held by regional booksellers associations this month and next. The spring forum programs traditionally include a forum or town hall session with senior staff from the ABA. The ABA is working with the regionals to offer a virtual forum or town hall where possible.

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

South Florida's Book Cellar Closing

The Book Cellar, Lake Worth Beach, Fla., is closing at the end of the month. In an announcement on Facebook, owners Danica and Arvin Ramgoolam said, in part, "With our lease ending and the uncertainty of so many things, we have decided that it is best for our family's financial future to close the store and get to work on recovering from the losses incurred in keeping the business open these last two and a half years.

"We have been very proud to have been a part of so many of your lives and families and to have a space dedicated to inclusivity and open-mindedness. There are so many people we would love to thank for their personal dedication to keeping the bookstore thriving and you will forever have our gratitude. May the book gods smile upon you.

"We hope you will come in and wish our staff well as we approach the end of the month. Have a drink, buy a book, and make a memory while we're still here in beautiful downtown Lake Worth Beach."

Last October, the Ramgoolams, who live in Colorado and operate Townie Books in Crested Butte, put the Book Cellar up for sale, saying they hoped to sell it to a local owner-operator. The Book Cellar opened in 2017 after extensive renovations.

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

New Owners Making Changes at Pilsen Community Books

New owners Tom Flynn, Mandy Medley and Katharine Solheim. (photo: Steel Brooks)

On March 1, booksellers Katharine Solheim, Mandy Medley and Tom Flynn officially took over Pilsen Community Books in Chicago, Ill., from previous owners Mary Gibbons and Aaron Lippelt. While Pilsen will continue to be a general-interest bookstore offering a selection of new and used titles for all ages, Pilsen Community Books now runs on a worker-owned and -operated model and has a renewed focus on social justice.

"We really want our shop to be a space where workers feel empowered and dignified," said Solheim. "By and large, that's our goal."

With all three owners having long careers in retail, Flynn explained, it was especially important to them that the bookstore's workers have a clear ownership stake in the business. At present, Flynn, Medley and Solheim all have equal shares in the business, and as the store grows and they bring on more booksellers, there will be a path laid out for them eventually ro become equal partners.

"Booksellers matter, and they matter in an absolute sense," said Flynn. "We're sort of putting our politics where our money is."

Medley noted that in many retail businesses there is a tendency to squeeze margin and, with bookstores, sometimes the first thing to get squeezed is booksellers. She and her co-owners want to avoid that, and looking ahead they hope their ownership model becomes something other bookstores might draw inspiration from or even replicate.

"The big advantage that indies have is the people who run the stores," Medley said. "We want to honor that in a material way."

The new owners plan to make other kinds of changes at the store in the first few weeks. They're going to move the poetry section up toward the front of the store, where it will dovetail with a series of sections pertaining to things like social, environmental and reproductive justice as well as labor issues. And noting that the Pilsen neighborhood is primarily Latinx, they plan to bring in Spanish-language books as soon as they can.

"We're putting forward what our vision is and what our politices are, but we'll be taking into account what the community wants and needs," said Flynn. The store's message and convictions won't change, but how exactly that gets expressed through events and inventory will be part of an "ongoing conversation."

When asked about any renovations, they said the shop itself is already "immaculate," though they do want to make it ADA accessible sooner rather than later. At the same time, they plan to make some minor changes such as putting wheels on freestanding bookcases, so they can be rearranged for events.

The trio reported that their first event after taking over the store will be with Mark Nowak, author of Social Poetics, and the rest of the events that they've lined up for the spring will likewise reflect the store's new direction. Medley noted, too, that while many of the events will pertain to social justice, they won't all be lectures or nonfiction talks. Rather, many events will feature "social justice and the arts intertwined."

Prior to buying Pilsen Community Books, Solheim and Medley worked together at Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago for roughly four years, where they both dreamed of owning their own bookstore and often talked about having a labor-focused bookstore. Flynn, meanwhile, worked at Volumes Bookcafe and Seminary Co-op over the years, and also hoped to own his own store one day.

Last summer, when Lippelt and Gibbons put Pilsen Community Books up for sale, Solheim and Medley approached them about buying the store and found out that Flynn had also inquired about the store. As they began doing their due diligence on buying the store, they met with Flynn to see whether their visions for the store aligned and if would make sense to form a partnership. It didn't take long for them to realize that it made sense to pool their talents, efforts and capital and "make a go of it." --Alex Mutter

For Sale: Breck Books in Breckenridge, Colo.

Breck Books in Breckenridge, Colo., is up for sale. Owners Richard and Kim Sims moved to Colorado to open the store in 2018, but have decided to return to California to be closer to family.

The 900 square-foot store is located on Breckenridge's Main Street, and the inventory caters to both locals and the many tourists who come to town to ski. Sims reported that the bookstore has operated above break-even, with a small profit, and he is asking for $75,000, including inventory and fixtures.

Interested parties can reach Sims via e-mail.

March Indie Next List E-Newsletter Delivered

Last Thursday, the American Booksellers Association's e-newsletter edition of the Indie Next List for March was delivered to more than half a million of the country's best book readers. The newsletter was sent to customers of 151 independent bookstores, with a combined total of 613,827 subscribers.

The e-newsletter, powered by Shelf Awareness, features all of the month's Indie Next List titles, with bookseller quotes and "buy now" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on the sending store's website. The newsletter, which is branded with each store's logo, also includes an interview (from Bookselling This Week) with the author whose book was chosen by booksellers as the number-one Indie Next List pick for the month, in this case My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (Morrow).

For a sample of the March newsletter, see this one from Books Are Awesome, Parker, Colo.


Image of the Day: Literature Lovers Host Lisa See

Yesterday the Literature Lover's Night Out program at Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, Minn., hosted Lisa See for her new novel, The Island of Sea Women (Scribner). The event attracted 160 fans, who were asked to "please sanitize and refrain from hugs & handshakes with the author." 

Pictured: (back row, l.-r.) bookseller Kim McCormick; Excelsior Bay Books owners Ann and Dale Woodbeck; bookseller Debra Larsson; (front row) Pamela Klinger-Horn, host of Literature Lover's Night Out; Lisa See; Rebbekah Thomasson, refreshment captain.

B&N's March Book Club Pick: A Good Neighborhood

Barnes & Noble has chosen A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler (St. Martin's Press) as its March national book club selection. The book will be the focus of a book club night at B&N stores around the country on Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m.

Liz Harwell, B&N's senior director of merchandising, trade books, said, "Therese Anne Fowler's A Good Neighborhood is a fast paced and enthralling tale of two very different families living out their own versions of the American Dream."

"I remember when Barnes & Noble launched their Book Club with Meg Wolitzer thinking 'what would I give to have my book be the selection,' and now that it has happened, it is just so surreal," said Therese Anne Fowler. "I am excited for readers from all over the country to discuss the story and the characters, and I can't wait to attend and be part of the Book Club event in Cary, North Carolina."

Princeton University Press to Distribute Zone Books

Effective July 1, Princeton University Press will handle sales, marketing and distribution internationally and domestically for Zone Books.

Founded in 1985, Zone Books, Brooklyn, N.Y., is an independent nonprofit publisher in the humanities and social sciences, with a special focus on interdisciplinary projects. It publishes four to six new releases a year, consisting of original works by international scholars of philosophy, history, art history, cultural and sound studies, as well as political and social theory that have changed conversations across disciplines. Upcoming cloth releases include Dissimilar Similitudes: Devotional Objects in Late Medieval Europe by Caroline Walker Bynum (September 2020); Absentees: On Variously Missing Persons by Daniel Heller-Roazen (Spring 2021); and Bizarre-Privileged Items in the Universe: Toward a Logic of Likeness by Paul North (Spring 2021). Paperback releases include Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work by Timothy Hampton (September 2020).

Meighan Gale, managing director of Zone Books, commented: "We have been long-time admirers of PUP and feel as though we are kindred publishing spirits. We look forward to the synergy of integrating Zone's list amidst Princeton's esteemed titles and authors."

Princeton University Press director Christie Henry said: "Zone books are exemplary in content and form and have shaped intellect and inquiry across the globe. PUP shares with them both authors and commitments to book publishing excellence."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ed Gordon on the Real

The View: Martha MacCallum, author of Unknown Valor: A Story of Family, Courage, and Sacrifice from Pearl Harbor to Iwo Jima (Harper, $27.99, 9780062853851).

The Real: Ed Gordon, author of Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership (Hachette Books, $28, 9780316532860).

This Weekend on Book TV: Dan Pfeiffer

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, March 14
7:20 p.m. Janice Kaplan, author of The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World (Dutton, $27, 9781524744212). (Re-airs Sunday at 10:50 a.m.)

8:30 p.m. Charlie Kirk, author of The MAGA Doctrine: The Only Ideas That Will Win the Future (Broadside, $28.99, 9780062974686). (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m. and 10 p.m.)

9:25 p.m. Matthew Algeo, author of All This Marvelous Potential: Robert Kennedy's 1968 Tour of Appalachia (Chicago Review Press, $28.99, 9781641600590), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.

10 p.m. K.T. McFarland, author of Revolution: Trump, Washington and "We the People" (Post Hill Press, $30, 9781642934045). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Dan Pfeiffer, author of Un-Trumping America: A Plan to Make America a Democracy Again (Twelve, $28, 9781538733554), at Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Pa. (Re-airs Sunday at 1:55 p.m.)

Sunday, March 15
1:55 a.m. Alexis Wichowski, author of The Information Trade: How Big Tech Conquers Countries, Challenges Our Rights, and Transforms Our World (HarperOne, $28.99, 9780062888983), at Kramerbooks and Afterwords in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m.)

7:45 p.m. Christian Picciolini, author of Breaking Hate: Confronting the New Culture of Extremism (Hachette Books, $28, 9780316522939).

11 p.m. Ben Buchanan, author of The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics (Harvard University Press, $27.95, 9780674987555).

Books & Authors

Awards: Prix Voltaire Shortlist; Kitschies Finalists

The International Publishers Association has announced the shortlist for the 2020 IPA Prix Voltaire, which recognizes "exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and in enabling others to exercise their right to freedom of expression." The award ceremony will take place at the 33rd International Publishers Congress in Lillehammer, Norway, scheduled for May 28-30. The nominees are:

Avesta Yayinlari (Turkey)
Mr Chong Ton Sin (Malaysia)
Liberal Publishing House (Vietnam)
Maktaba-e-Daniyal (Pakistan)


Finalists have been announced in three categories (novel, debut, cover art) for the Kitschies, sponsored by Blackwell's and recognizing "the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining fiction that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic." Winners, who receive tentacle trophies and a total cash prize of £2,000 (about $2,580), will be named April 6 in London. See the complete list of Kitschies finalists here.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, March 17:

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben (Grand Central, $29, 9781538748145) is a thriller about a missing teen girl.

Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs (Ace, $28, 9780440001553) is the 12th urban fantasy with shapeshifter Mercy Thompson.

Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Princeton University Press, $27.95, 9780691190785) diagnoses rising rates of suicide and addiction as side effects of capitalism.

Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step StoryBrand Guide for Any Business by Donald Miller and J.J. Peterson (HarperCollins, $24.99, 9781400203796) gives business marketing advice.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim (Kokila/Penguin, $16.99, 9780525554974) is a mistaken identity novel in which a young wannabe comedian, who is supposed to be attending summer test-prep classes, instead ends up at a comedy camp.

Hike by Pete Oswald (Candlewick, $17.99, 9781536201574) is a picture book featuring a father and child who spend a day hiking in the mountains.

The Odd 1s Out: The First Sequel by James Rallison (TarcherPerigee, $17, 9780593087633).

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Oona Out of Order: A Novel by Margarita Montimore (Flatiron, $26.99, 9781250236609). "Oona Lockhart has been cursed (or blessed) with a magical wrinkle in time that has her leaping forward and back through the years. Inside she is aging chronologically, but on the outside, Oona is sometimes 51, 30, or 26 years old. A life lived out of order, however, can be just as valid as a life lived forward. Surprising, bittersweet, and filled with love, Oona discovers both the wisdom of age and the spontaneity of youth. Don't miss out on what is sure to be the most enchanted reading experience of 2020." --Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, Minn.

The Girl With the Louding Voice: A Novel by Abi Daré (Dutton, $26, 9781524746025). "This year is overflowing with phenomenal debuts--including this one from Abi Daré. It tells the story of Adunni, a young girl in Nigeria whose dreams and ambition focus in on one thing: education. In a city where girls like her are looked down upon and considered unworthy, she comes to find that change can begin with even the smallest of voices. This story is the kind that makes you itch: you'll ache for Adunni, bristle at the people who treat her so unjustly, and yearn for her to succeed. This is a stunning, important, and fascinating first novel." --Lindsay Howard, Lark and Owl Booksellers, Georgetown, Tex.

The Bird King: A Novel by G. Willow Wilson (Grove Press, $16, 9780802148292). "Fatima is a concubine of the sultan of the last emirate in the Iberian Peninsula to submit to the Spanish Inquisition. When her dearest friend, Hassan, a mapmaker who can map places he has never seen (and that do not always exist), is singled out by the Inquisition, she flees with him and a jinn, following the trail of the elusive and mythical Bird King, who may or may not be able to grant them sanctuary. Wilson's latest novel is rich with the historical detail, lush description, and fantastical elements that we have come to know and love from her. A story of resistance, freedom, seeking, and strength, and a true fable for our times." --Anna Eklund, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Bear Must Go On by Dev Petty, illus. by Brandon Todd (Philomel, $17.99, 9781984837479). "The Bear Must Go On took me straight back to lazy summer days planning performances with my friends. Just like the squirrels in this book, we loved planning all the details--including hand-drawn tickets--but what we lacked was a big-spirited bear to create a stellar show for us! This story is great for children entering the age of schools plays and choir concerts, and will make for a very fun, creative story time!" --Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 9 to 12
A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor (Katherine Tegen, $16.99, 9780062796783). "This sweet and heartwarming book is the perfect gift for anyone who's ever lost something--or someone--precious. While the plot is simple, the characters and the timeless message of healing more than make up for it. There's also a positive representation of a same-sex couple and elements of the famous story Marley & Me sprinkled throughout. But don't worry, the ending isn't nearly as devastating." --Jason Mills, The Book Bungalow, St. George, Utah

For Teen Readers
Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin (Wednesday Books, $18.99, 9781250239549). "Featuring a razor-sharp take on Lady Macbeth, this book is gripping. In the rise of antihero narratives in pop culture, this deserves to be up there with some of our favorites. It's cathartic to see karma come around in the form of our protagonist, Jade. For Shakespeare fans, all of the nods to the original play are clever. Hannah Capin gets the balance just right between the source material and her own unique vision. As a tale of revenge, Foul Is Fair soars. No matter what happens in the book, we are always rooting for the girls." --Sofia Silva Wright, Phoenix Books, Burlington, Vt.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, trans. by Sophie Hughes (New Directions, $22.95 hardcover, 224p., 9780811228039, March 31, 2020)

Mexican novelist Fernanda Melchor makes her unforgettable English-language debut with Hurricane Season, the snarled story of a witch murdered in the village of La Matosa. At the outset, five adventurous boys discover her water-logged corpse in an irrigation canal, sparking a series of conflicting accounts that depict the wicked events leading up to her brutal death. The accomplished Sophie Hughes translates from the Spanish, beautifully preserving Melchor's nearly uninterrupted prose, which conjures an intense gravity that can be difficult to escape.

The Witch of La Matosa bore many epithets in her lifetime, witch being the most civil to repeat here. "If she'd had another name, scrawled on some time-worn, worm-eaten piece of paper... well, no one had ever known it, not even the women who visited the house each Friday." Everyone knew of her, but no one knew anything about her--or cared to. As reviled as she was, the parties she threw were raucous and lively. It's this cruel paradox that Melchor caresses time and again, as those who live in the village grapple with their dependence on, and deep disdain for, the Witch. Men needed her for sex, drugs, booze, money; women needed her to remedy the effects of those tempestuous appetites.

Her vicious demise gets recounted in eight bracing chapters, whose menacing and longwinded sentences form the ferocious spiraling arms of Hurricane Season. In the eye of the storm stands Luisimi, a deadbeat who regularly consorted with the Witch. His relationship with her, and implication in her death, swirls into something like focus through vituperative reports from his closest friends and family: his exasperated cousin Yesenia, self-pitying stepdad Munra, underage girlfriend Norma and jealous best friend Brando. But as in all good murder mysteries, the credibility of these witnesses is far from absolute.

Melchor plays with storytelling as a malleable substance with such dexterity that even the coarsest language glimmers on the page. Prejudicial personal accounts blur into hearsay, into folklore and mythology, and back again, so that by its end this sensational novel resembles a profane gospel of human greed and betrayal. Its transgressions, however, are unmistakably rooted in frank depictions of poverty, need, abuse and addiction, begging empathy for nearly everyone involved. In La Matosa's economy of violence, Melchor makes awfully clear the ways women bear the most unforgiving burdens of exploitation. Yet Hurricane Season weathers it all into an exquisite work of art. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: This exceptional novel reveals the treacheries within a small village after the grotesque murder of the local witch.

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