Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 13, 2020

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

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

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

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

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

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

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

Quotation of the Day

'We Strive to Serve You'

"Locally-owned businesses and their employees can be especially vulnerable to the economic impact of a pandemic crisis like COVID-19. We are grateful for the support of our community as we strive to serve you, provide health insurance and paychecks to some of your friends and neighbors, and keep the engines of vital commerce and culture running through this unprecedented crisis."

--Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., in an e-mail update to customers yesterday

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


PNBA Spring Forum Canceled

"Falling in step with forces beyond our control and heeding caution," the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association has canceled its Spring Forum, scheduled for Tuesday, April 14, at Third Place Books in Seattle, Wash. Executive director Brian Juenemann said that the ABA's decision not to send staff to any spring forums "took our primary presenter out of the picture," and Governor Jay Inslee's limit on public gatherings in Washington State, which has some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths, led to the decision.

Juenemann noted that "any author confirmed or invited to the spring Authors on the Map event will be given placement priority should they be proposed for a spot at the PNBA Fall Tradeshow, set for Tacoma, Sept. 30-Oct. 2." The call for authors for that show is going out today.

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

Two Bookstores Closing Temporarily to Minimize COVID-19 Risk

I AM Books, an Italian-American bookstore in Boston, Mass., will close for two weeks to help its staff, customers and wider community stay safe during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, co-owner Nicola Orichuia announced.

Orichuia and his team hope to reopen on Friday, March 27, but he pointed out that this is a tentative date, and will depend on how things develop over the next two weeks. The store's online shop will be 100% operational while the physical store remains closed, and shipments will be made on a daily basis. All of the store's events that were scheduled through the end of April have either been canceled or postponed.

"We are a business, but we are a family first and foremost, and we must look after each other," Orichuia said. "After speaking with my business partner and all the staff, we have convened that the best thing to do in these trying times is not put anyone at risk."

Orichuia noted that the closure will undoubtedly have a severe impact on his business, especially coming so soon after the slowest months of the year. To that end, he has launched a GoFundMe campaign for an "emergency fund" that would help cover rent and employees' salaries.

He stressed that this decision did not come from an "excess of fear" and was not "panic-driven," and added that he and many of the staff are Italian and have family and friends in Italy. He said: "The Italian government's decision to lock down the country is not the result of mass hysteria, but the inevitable outcome necessary to contain the threat of this new and harmful virus.

"If we act as a community and take care of each other, we will get out of this sooner rather than later," Orichuia continued. "We will get through this, together, and when it's all over, we'll meet again at I AM Books."


And in Lincoln, Neb., Indigo Bridge Books and Cafe has been temporarily closed out of an abundance of caution. Store owner Kim Coleman, who is also a health care provider, plans to reopen on Thursday, March 19, pending new information.

To limit the financial impact on the store's staff, Coleman will be offering her employees a mix of paid leave, off-site work and minimal non-public work within the store. Indigo Bridge will also maintain its online presence during the closure and will continue to process special orders.

"There is no precedent for small businesses and public spaces, but we want to do our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus by minimizing non-essential public gatherings," Coleman explained.

COVID-19 Update: Challenges and Changes

The coronavirus continues to spread globally, and its impact on every aspect of people's lives has been intense. The book business is not immune, and Shelf Awareness is tracking the latest industry developments due to concerns regarding COVID-19. (For more about how booksellers are dealing with the crisis, see Robert Gray’s column below.)

"We're trying to figure out creative ways to get people in the store, obviously in a very safe and thoughtful way, following the guidelines of the CDC and the WHO," wrote Laurie Swift Raisys, owner of Island Books in Mercer Island, Wash., in an essay for Slate's Coronavirus Diaries series. She also observed: "I don't have an answer right now as to how long the business can sustain itself in this kind of situation. I can look at numbers until I'm blue in the face, and I'm not opposed to calling in favors from my landlord, calling in favors from publishers, but we have to take this crisis one day at a time. We're getting new information, it feels like, every single day, especially here in Washington state. I've had a pit in my stomach for the last week and a half since it became real. It's a small town, and they support when they can, but I think right now they're all in crisis mode, because everyone thinks about themselves and their livelihood. I hope that I can weather it out, but right now, I'm scared to death that this business I bought almost five years ago could seriously be in trouble."


Josh Cook

Many bookstores are borrowing from a series of tweets by Josh Cook of Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass., who made suggestions about how indie customers can support their favorite bookstore during the pandemic. They include signing up for the store's newsletter and following it on social media ("If they need a gofundme, community investors, sell special memberships, etc. you'll want to know about it."); doing preorders with the store; buying books from the store's "warehouse" with direct shipping; buying digital audiobooks from through the store; buying e-books from the store; buying gift cards ("a no interest loan"); donate to the Binc Foundation; support store booksellers who have other gigs and professions; "stock up now" and make use of staff recommendations and other sites and organizations that recommend titles; encourage local and state governments to help small businesses "during a quarantine/recession."

At many stores, customers can also take advantage of a range of new and tweaked delivery options, including home delivery; delivery of books to the customer's car outside the store; and reduced or free shipping.



The Bay Area Book Festival, slated for May 2-3 in Berkeley, Calif., is canceled. Organizers said: "During this tough time, let's all remember one tried-and-true way to promote wellness. Stress and anxiety are terrible for our immune systems, and there's a proven antidote for that: read a book. In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty, it can help to spend half an hour escaping with a novel, feeding your soul with poetry, or finding companionship in a memoir."


The San Diego Writers Festival, scheduled for April 4, has been postponed until the fall. A new date will be announced later. "We are deeply saddened by this, but we are confident that we are making the best decision for the health and safety of our speakers, volunteers, and attendees," organizers said.


The New York Public Library has decided to suspend all public-facing programs, beginning today "through at least the end of March. This includes all events (classes, programs, workshops, etc.) at its 92 locations, which as of now remain open with regular operating hours."


The Whiting Foundation said that it will announce this year's Whiting Award winners as scheduled on March 25, "but in light of growing health concerns in NYC, we're regretfully cancelling this year's in-person ceremony and reading. 2003 Whiting winner Sarah Ruhl will make the announcement by video, and we will soon send details of how to watch that live."


The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Mass., is open but is canceling programs and events through April 5, including public programs, group tours, workshops and outreach.

Break-In at Russo's Books in Bakersfield. Calif.

Plywood covers the door following break-in at Russo's Books.

Earlier this week Russo's Books in Bakersfield, Calif., was burglarized by what appear to be nonreading thieves. On Facebook, Russo's posted: "Well... our lovely bookstore was broken into last night. No one was here, so everyone is safe. They stole a few items, demolished our door, but left ALL THE BOOKS!! That's either really funny or really sad.

"Wouldn't it have been funny if they stole The Book Thief? No, of course not, but I laugh so I don't yell. So if you need any books for this weekend or next month, please let us know. We could use the morale booster."

BA Appoints New President and VPs

With this year's London Book Fair canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland held a rescheduled annual general meeting on Tuesday, where it announced the appointment of a new president and two vice-presidents.

Andy Rossiter

Andy Rossiter, co-founder of Rossiter Books in Ross on Wye, Monmouth and Leominster, is the BA's new president, while Hazel Broadfoot, owner of Village Books in Dulwich, and Fleur Sinclair, owner of Sevenoaks Bookshop in Sevenoaks, were appointed vice-presidents.

Rossiter succeeds Nic Bottomley, co-owner of Mr B's Emporium in Bath, who served as BA president for two years. The previous vice-presidents were Rossiter and Maria Dickenson of Dubray Books in Dublin.

"The BA is an amazing organization that I have been very keen to have played an active part in," said Rossiter. Prior to co-founding Rossiter Books, he spent more than 20 years at Waterstones and Ottakers, where he managed multiple stores. "We have benefitted hugely over the years from hearing how other booksellers run their businesses."

"We are really thrilled to have booksellers the caliber of Andy, Hazel and Fleur take on the presidency and vice presidency of the BA at this crucial time for bookselling," said Meryl Halls, the BA's managing director. "Between them, they have decades of experience, enthusiasm, creativity, commitment to the bookselling community--and the respect of their peers. All of us at the BA are delighted to be working with them and look forward to Andy's tenure as President with great excitement."


Image of the Day: Celebrating In Five Years

To help launch Good Morning America's Book Club pick for March, In Five Years (Atria), #Bookstagram and pie-creator extraordinaire @PieLadyBooks created book-themed pies that celebrated the New York City skyline motif on the novel's cover. Pictured: Steph the Pie Lady (l.) and author Rebecca Serle at GMA Studios in Times Square. (photo: ABC/Paula Lobo)

Best Sign of the Times: Interabang Books

On Facebook yesterday, Interabang Books, Dallas, Tex., shared a "moment of pure giddy pleasure as we make it official with a permanent sign at the Pavilion on Lovers Lane, now our permanent home. Thanks to Jeff at B & B Sign Systems for beautiful work and a smooth installation!" Earlier in the day, Interabang chronicled the sign's arrival.

Last October, Interabang Books suffered major damage from an EF-3 tornado at its previous location, but was able to reopen a month later at the Pavilion.

Viral Sidewalk Chalkboard: Curious Iguana

How about a moment of sidewalk chalkboard levity in the midst of crisis? Curious Iguana, Frederick, Md., shared a photo yesterday of its topical message:

Non-book person: That's a big pile of books you're buying! You getting ready to self-quarantine?
Book person: Yup!
Non-book person: At least you'll have plenty to read while we wait out the virus.
Book person: Virus?

Bookseller Moment: Commonplace Books Fort Worth

Commonplace Books, Fort Worth, Tex., shared a photo on Facebook of the store's front entrance, noting: "Feels like summer, Fort Worth! Stop by the shop & grab a book to enjoy on the patio, the back porch, the hammock, or anywhere else you choose to enjoy this beautiful day!!"

Personnel Changes at St. Martin's Publishing Group

At the St. Martin's Publishing Group:

Rebecca Lang has been promoted to assistant director of publicity. She had been a senior publicity manager.

Katie Bassel has been promoted to senior publicity manager. She had been a publicity manager.

Kathryn Hough Boutross has been promoted to publicity manager. She had been a senior publicist.

Kayla Janus has been promoted to publicist for St. Martin's/Minotaur Books. She had been an associate publicist.

Media and Movies

TV: The Baby-Sitters Club

Netflix has set the cast for The Baby-Sitters Club, its upcoming adaptation of the bestselling book series by Ann M. Martin. Deadline reported that the club will include Sophie Grace as Kristy Thomas, Malia Baker (Mary-Anne Spier), Momona Tamada (Claudia Kishi), Shay Rudolph (Stacey McGill), Xochitl Gomez (Dawn Schafer), Alicia Silverstone (Elizabeth Thomas-Brewer) and Mark Feuerstein (Watson Brewer).

For the new version of The Baby-Sitters Club, which will include ten 30-minute episodes, Martin will serve as producer, with Rachel Shukert (Glow) as showrunner and Lucia Aniello (Broad City) as executive producer and director. Lucy Kitada and Michael De Luca will also be executive producers alongside Frank Smith and Naia Cucukov of Walden Media, which is the studio

Books & Authors

Awards: NBCC Winners

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced last night in New York City. Because of COVID-19, the ceremony originally planned at the New School was canceled. The NBCC Board plans to honor the winners and finalists at a gala on September 12. This year's NBCC Award recipents are:

Fiction: Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)
Nonfiction: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)
Poetry: Magical Negro: Poems by Morgan Parker (Tin House)
Autobiography: Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller (Viking)
Biography: The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth by Josh Levin (Little, Brown)
Criticism: Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman (Norton)

The John Leonard Prize was presented to Sarah M. Broom for The Yellow House: A Memoir (Grove); the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing to Katy Waldman; and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award to Naomi Shihab Nye.

Reading with... William Boyle

photo: Katie Farrell Boyle

William Boyle is from Brooklyn, N.Y. His books include Gravesend, which was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France and shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the U.K.; The Lonely Witness, nominated for the Hammett Prize and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière; and A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself. His new novel, City of Margins, was just published by Pegasus Crime. He lives in Oxford, Miss.

On your nightstand now:

Willa Cather's Lucy Gayheart, José Donoso's Hell Has No Limits, Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo, and Fuminori Nakamura's Cult X. I'm also reading an advance copy of Lee Durkee's excellent The Last Taxi Driver for the second time--it comes out this month from Tin House, and it's incredible.   

Favorite book when you were a child:

There were many books I loved as a small child--Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl--but Lois Duncan's Killing Mr. Griffin was one that really switched my brain. I read it in fifth grade. It opened up a new world for me. I also remember, very early on, finding beat-up copies of some of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels and being totally swept away.

Your top five authors:

Really tough to narrow it down, so I'll cheat a little. I can't imagine my life without the work of Carson McCullers, Richard Yates, Jean Rhys, Raymond Carver and Chester Himes. Megan Abbott, Sara Gran and Willy Vlautin are my favorite living writers.  

Book you've faked reading:

I remember feeling the need to say I'd read things I hadn't when I was in college. I guess it came from the fear that I wasn't smart enough, that I wasn't reading the right books. That said, I can't remember a specific instance, though I'm sure there were a handful of 18th-century English novels I claimed to have read that I bailed on early. I hope I have since made up for those transgressions.  

Book you're an evangelist for:

Ann Petry's The Street. Not only the book I'd pick as the Great American Novel but also--though it doesn't seem to be viewed this way too often--our greatest noir novel. It's just out in a new edition with a beautiful intro by Tayari Jones.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Oh, so many. Most recently, Laura Sims's Looker, which I wound up absolutely loving.  

Book you hid from your parents:

I honestly don't remember ever having to hide any book from my mother or my grandparents. They weren't big readers, and I think they were just happy I was reading. They let me read whatever I want, which is how I wound up burning through Jim Thompson and James Ellroy books by the time I was 12 or 13.

Book that changed your life:

There are a handful of candidates, but William Kennedy's Ironweed--which I read when I was 18--probably had the biggest overall impact. I read it on a long bus ride in one sitting, and nothing was ever the same. 

Favorite line from a book:

"Sometimes what I wouldn't give to have us sitting in a bar again at 9:00 a.m. telling lies to one another, far from God." --Denis Johnson, Jesus' Son

Five books you'll never part with:

I often think about what books I'd grab if I had to leave in a hurry. Five that jump immediately to mind, that I feel like could nourish and sustain me forever are: Frank Stanford's The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You; Raymond Carver's Collected Stories; Jean Rhys: The Complete Novels; Astonishments: Selected Poems of Anna Kamieńska; and Charles Portis's True Grit.

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

Willy Vlautin's Northline. Allison Johnson is my favorite character in all of fiction. I worry about her a lot, and I often think about my first encounter with that book--reading while walking, reading everywhere, consumed by Allison's lostness. I also wish I could read Larry Brown's work and Lucia Berlin's stories again for the first time--there's nothing like the magic of finding the right book at the exact right time.

Pair your new novel with a film and record:

City of Margins is directly influenced by the films of Robert Altman and Alan Rudolph. If I had to pick one of their films to pair with the book, it'd be Altman's Short Cuts (based on the stories of Raymond Carver). As for an album, Ghost Writer by Garland Jeffreys (which makes an appearance in the book) is the obvious choice, though Lou Reed's New York is also an ideal match.

Book Review

Review: The Beauty of Your Face

The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah (Norton, $26.95 hardcover, 312p., 9781324003380, April 7, 2020)

Sahar Mustafah's skillfully nuanced debut novel, The Beauty of Your Face, traces one family's challenges in adjusting to life in the United States through the perspective of first-generation Palestinian American Afaf Rahman.

Readers first meet Afaf as a wife and mother and the principal of a private Muslim girls school in Tempest, Ill. At the close of the first chapter, Afaf, while praying downstairs in the school, hears gunshots above her.

Mustafah, maintaining a third-person narrative, then flashes back to 1976, when Afaf was 10 years old, and her 17-year-old sister, Nada, disappeared. The police pronounce Nada a runaway, and the tension simmering between her parents comes to a boiling point: Mama resents Baba for taking her from their homeland, for how little money they have and for allowing Nada to fall under the influence of "these amarkan." Baba takes refuge in alcohol and a mistress. Despite his shortcomings, when he is present, Baba is a loving father, unlike their distant mother, and sings along with Afaf and her younger brother, Majeed, to the music of Hair.

Mustafah authentically portrays Afaf's enjoyment of her friendships, music and the limited independence her bike affords her, alongside her growing awareness of her mother's displeasure with American life. The divide between them widens as Nada's absence lengthens. Then her mother has a nervous breakdown, and Afaf and Majeed go to stay with their aunt. Afaf wonders, "How can she possibly miss her mother and still be relieved to be away from her?"

The author's interspersing of chapters from the shooter's perspective makes it impossible for readers to see him as pure villain. He was neglected by his parents and abandoned by his older sibling, just as Afaf was. A near tragedy drives teenage Afaf and her father into the Islamic Center, where they both begin to heal. In recounting the specifics of Afaf's journey of faith and self-discovery, Mustafah paints a universal picture of coming to understand oneself.

Afaf's incessant desire to win her mother's approval gives her empathy for her own children, her husband and her students. With exquisite pacing, Mustafah builds suspense and also Afaf's quiet courage until--in the book's final chapters--Afaf must do her hardest work yet. She must confront the shooter in order to save her students and herself. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: Debut novelist Sahar Mustafah traces a Palestinian American's determination to face down her worst fears, within both her family and the school she's called to protect.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Quotable COVID-19--Indies Deliver

Ever tossed by the roiling seas of public information, misinformation and disinformation regarding COVID-19, independent booksellers are doing what they have always done best: communicate with customers in informed, constructive, helpful and sometimes even entertaining ways.

Sanctuaries take many forms, including virtual, so here in my little corner of the plague I've been collecting some online words of wisdom from indies as they update friends and patrons. Here's a sampling:

The King's English delivery team

Showing Up
The King's English Bookshop
, Salt Lake City, Utah: "Staying in these days? Take advantage of our delivery team! Free in Salt Lake County!"

Main Street Books, Frostburg, Md.: "Spending more time at home? MSB is happy to deliver books to you! Same day service. Give us a call, send us an e-mail or message us on Facebook."

Main Street Books "is happy to deliver."

Dudley's Bookshop Café, Bend, Ore.: "As a 100% introvert (c'mon people, I sell books!) it's horrifying to have to go on camera but I do appreciate the folks at Central Oregon Daily spreading the word. Just today I've had 3 different people volunteer to help with book deliveries if it comes to that. Faith in some parts of humanity = restored."

Bound Booksellers, Franklin, Tenn.: "We understand the tall task of entertaining the kiddos! Call us for our purchases and deliveries to Westhaven porches."

Charm City Books, Baltimore, Md.: "In light of Governor Hogan's announcement, Joe and I are breaking out the tandem bicycle! We are now delivering for free if you live in Baltimore City and $5 or less if you live outside of the city. During this time, we need to all lift each other up."

Firefly Bookstore, Kutztown, Pa.: "Are You Sick at Home? Need a Book? Live Local? We'll Get You What You Need to Feel Better! Offering Free Shipping for Local Addresses. This season of various colds, flu and other nasties (looking at you COVID-19) means that if you are sick, you should stay home and rest. Maybe best not to spread it around! But that doesn't mean you have to be without reading materials."

British bookseller Harris & Harris Books says: "Two weeks without a book? *shudder* Better stock up now."

Picking Up
Tsunami Books, Eugene, Ore.: "We're experiencing a run on books; a lot like the days before Y2K. If you'd rather not come in, give us a cell phone call and we'll deliver out to our parking lot."

FoxTale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, Ga.: "While we may not look like this 1940s pinup, we will carhop your books out to you if requested! Just give us a call and let us know the books you want!"

Caprichos Books, Bel Air, Md.: "Don't want to people today but realize you're out of books? See something posted that you have to have but you're at home with the kids? Under the weather or recovering from surgery but need something to break up the day? We now offer *curbside* pick up or delivery around the county from the store. As always you can also shop at our online store and have it delivered from the warehouse too."

Let's Play Books, Emmaus, Pa.: "Starting today we are offering curbside pick-up. If you have a compromised immune system, or have little ones with the sniffles, etc., let us help. If you have ordered a book online and it is ready to pick up, or if you call ahead and confirm we have a title you would like--come on by, and let us help--easy peasy!"

Stocking up
Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C.: "So I know you all have been working on your quarantine kits because there was no soap or toilet paper anywhere in the store yesterday. Remember, you're going to need books too! So stop by the store this week and stock up."

Stockpiling at Janke Book Store

Janke Book Store, Wausau, Wis.: "Two very important things to stockpile during coronavirus."

The Bookshop, East Nashville, Tenn.: "Speaking of stocking up, don't forget about books.... If you can't make it in for a browse, please consider shopping on our @bookshop_org site (link in bio). Times are uncertain and we're all drained from these last 10 days, but please don't forget to support your local small shops, if you're able."

Cleaning up
Blue Marble Books, Fort Thomas, Ky.: "Just FYI, we do this regularly, but we are stepping up our efforts to make sure the store is sanitized. We're wiping down common areas and making sure the train table is kept clean. We are open and would love to see you. Books aren't going to cure any virus. They're not going to prevent them either. But they are a great way to escape when the craziness around us gets to be too much and to occupy our time when we aren't feeling well."

At Octavia Books in New Orleans, an informative display.

Riverstone Books, Pittsburgh, Pa.: "We are regularly sanitizing surfaces and high-trafficked areas. We also know many of our customers take comfort in talking with our booksellers or just taking a moment to sit and read. We welcome your visits but are also happy to talk to you on the phone or take an order online if that is what's best for you. Thank you for your continued support."

4 Kids Books & Toys, Zionsville, Ind.: "Now, about this pesky virus. If schools close, we will still be open, and keeping up our usual daily bleach wipe drill of everything we can reach in the store.... Our staff is all healthy, and we want to keep everyone that way. If we need to put away some play tables to keep your toddlers safe, we will do so. In the meantime, we ask that you all take good care of yourselves--we love our customers, and you are part of our family."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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