Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, March 17, 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


More Help for Booksellers as Many Events Shift Online

As booksellers try to adapt to ever-changing circumstances, some companies and organizations are rallying to help indies.

Hachette Book Group is launching an Indie Home Delivery rebate promotion to help independent bookstores that offer delivery service to homes or businesses in their local community that is done directly by a store staff member or other contracted local delivery service between now and May 15. (Orders shipped via USPS, UPS, FedEx or other shipping companies are not eligible for the rebate.)

The promotion includes an additional discount of 5% off MSRP to be credited on any delivered title once receipt of the credit request form is received. There is no minimum quantity for delivery required to be eligible for a rebate. The promotion applies to all Hachette Book Group titles; participating distribution clients include Abrams, Disney, Kids Can Press, Hachette UK, Lonely Planet, Marvel, Mobius, Moleskine, Phaidon, Phoenix International, Octopus, Quarto Publishing Group, and Yen.

A credit request form can be found online. Bookstores must complete the credit request form and e-mail it to the company to receive the credit.

"With this Indie Home Delivery promotion, we hope to provide our valued independent bookstore partners help in adapting to a situation that will be impacting sales and retail foot traffic," Alison Lazarus, executive v-p and group sales director, said. "We know many stores already offer this personalized service and hope this will help in those efforts."

Over the weekend, launched two offers to support bookstores, giving bookstores the entire amount customers spend when they take advantage of either:

  • A 2-for-1 membership for $14.99 with code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW. Bookstores get $14.99 for every new member who uses this code.
  • A one-month gift membership for $15. Current members can purchase a gift membership to get additional credits or gift to others. Bookstores get the $15.

The offers expire March 31. is encouraging the use of the hashtag #ShopBookstoresNow and featured "nine ways to support your independent during coronavirus" on its blog.

Ever more stores across the country have closed for at least several weeks (so many that we can't list them all), and more attention is focusing now on different ways of delivering books to customers, with curbside delivery proving particularly effective.

Many events, including author appearances and storytimes, have gone online. The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, Ariz., for example, is hosting a conversation between owner Barbara Peters and Harlan Coben about Coben's new novel, The Boy from the Woods (Grand Central), on Wednesday on Facebook Live. The two will be answer questions sent in from the video audience, and the chat will be available on the Poisoned Pen's YouTube channel on Thursday.

The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minn., released a COVID-19 Plan, announcing that it was cancelling or transitioning most activities to virtual/online spaces starting yesterday until at least May 31. Among the events affected is the Loft's 2020 Wordplay festival, which is shifting to a virtual celebration of books. "Even as public health concerns around COVID-19 keep us from gathering in-person this season, we still believe in taking the time to celebrate story and verse. We understand that a festival like ours is both a celebration and a career necessity for the artists who come here to share their work, and we remain committed to celebrating our Wordplay 2020 authors, even if the party looks a little different this year."

Tonight Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Santa Fe, N.Mex., will host its first "virtual book event," via Zoom (it will also be streamed live on the store's Facebook page). The event is a "Night of Crime: True and Fictional," featuring Jake Anderson, author of Gone at Midnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam (Citadel), and Lisa Sandlin, author of The Bird Boys (Cinco Puntos Press), who will discuss the work and "the behind-the-scenes machinations of writing a true crime vs. fictional crime novel."

For its customers, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury, Conn., has links to live author story times online--with buy buttons for the authors' works. They include Mo Willems, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Oliver Jeffers, Mac Barnett, Grace Lin and Ben Clanton.

Food pantry donations at Silver Unicorn.

Besides offering personal shopping on the phone and via e-mail as well as a range of delivery options, the Silver Unicorn Bookstore, Acton, Mass., has also become an official drop-off point for food for the Acton Food Pantry. Owner Paul Swydan explained to Acton Wicked Local that with schools closed and many children eating just one or two meals a day at school, "those kids might be going hungry or hungrier than normal so we wanted to do something to support our community food bank." On Friday, the bin was delivered--and filled by late in the day. "It's awesome to see and we hope people keep donating food," he added.

In a similar helpful way, in an e-mail to customers, BookSmart, Morgan Hill, Calif., put out a call for volunteers to help at a nearby bookstore. The store explained: "Our friends at Book Buyers in Gilroy need your help! They are lovely people but they are both in their 70s. They need to self quarantine and they really need to keep the bookstore open. They are looking for a few healthy (and under 65) volunteers to help them keep the store open. Your function would be to ring up customers. They will do the stocking, etc., when there are no customers in the store. My guess is you will only have 10 or 12 transactions a day. If you can help please call Punita at 408-306-0393."

One of our favorite ideas in reaction to the crisis comes from Loyalty Bookstores, Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md. The stores are promoting online a "Social Distancing TBR Pile," suggesting 40 books "ranging from our current, upcoming, and forever favorite reads for kiddos and adults to add to your TBR while maintaining social distancing."

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

Temporary Bookstore Closures Expand Nationwide

Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Ga., is offering store pickup.

What began late last week with a handful of independent bookstores announcing temporary closures has become the norm. Dozens of indies nationwide have now sent out notices to customers relaying the bad news, along with offering numerous alternative ways to support local booksellers as well as heartfelt expressions of concern. Here's just a small sampling of the messages being shared during these troubling times:

Brad Johnson, owner of East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, Calif., observed: "Beyond store stuff, we just want to say: the next couple weeks are absolutely crucial during this public health emergency. With so many people working from home and kids out of school, the temptation to not stay home will be high. But please... stay home, short of everything that's not essential. Our aim is to help make this as easy as possible. Be well, everybody, and look out for yourself and those most vulnerable / highest at risk."

Moon Palace Books, Minneapolis, Minn.: "We love being a part of this community and a place where people gather to share food, drink, art and ideas. We look forward to re-opening and seeing you all as soon as it makes sense. Please do your part to help 'flatten the curve,' socially isolate, keep physical distance, wash your hands, stay safe. There's no time to waste. People before profits."

"Well, I don't know about you, but I've been crying a lot this week," Kelly Justice, owner of the Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va., wrote. "There were moments when I was filled with tears of joy and gratitude for the blessings and gifts that have been bestowed upon me by virtue of my relationship with this bookstore and its community and all of you.... And we will be posting quite a bit on Twitter, FB, and Instagram to try to help authors who did not get to come and with all this social distancing, maybe I'm just speaking for myself, I feel the need for connection. I'm feeling isolated already. Cheers (Lord knows day drinking may be in order)."

Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., recalled that "we've always been proud that we're the store that opened its doors when there was a blizzard, or a hurricane, or a transit shutdown, or any number of other disasters that hit our city and community. We love to be the place that people gather to support each other, and to rely on the deep comforts of books and stories. But this is a disaster that demands the opposite response. In order to best support our neighbors, we need to NOT provide a space to gather, so we can do our part to slow the spread of coronavirus, especially among the most vulnerable in our communities."

Brian Lampkin, owner of Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, S.C., noted: "We think books are essential, and we can get books to you, but let's all admit that we can survive a week or two without a visit to Scuppernong.... We thank you all for all these years of support and we'll see you all in a week. Or two. In the meantime, keep reading. Of the many things we might learn from this moment, one is, and let's shout this together from the streets of Greensboro: knowledge matters. Information matters. Testing matters. Let's all do our part in making Greensboro a city that might lead the way in mitigating the crisis in front of us."

And some good advice from the Book Bin, Northbrook, Ill.: "In conclusion, stay inside, read books, take walks, share long meals with family, play board games and of course, wash your hands. We will get through this. We will not be stopped from reading great books. We will be your community partner through all conditions--neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail, nor cold will close the Book Bin--but sadly COVID-19 will. But only temporarily. See you soon."

Roxanne Coady, owner of RJ Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., observed: "If there is even a tiny bright spot in the confusion and worry of these last few weeks it is an appreciation for our sense of humanity to each other including little kindnesses and gestures of well-being. It is this that will guide us at RJ Julia Booksellers in the days and weeks ahead. We are here to help and we know we can count on your support and good wishes. Thank you. Stay healthy and stay in touch. Hopefully soon I can say, see you in the store."

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

NYC's McNally Jackson Announces Layoffs

In what may be the first major coronavirus-related bookseller layoffs, McNally Jackson--which has four bookstores and a gift and stationery store in New York City--made what it called "the most difficult decision the bookstore has ever faced." Because of "a massive, unprecedented loss in revenue," in consultation with the union, it has "temporarily laid off employees until the store is able to reopen."

A tweet from Cristin Stickles, the store's children's/YA buyer, said, "Most @mcnallyjackson employees (anyone at the store less than 4 years) were (temporarily) laid off today, to be hired back at an indeterminate date." Stickles provided Venmo addresses for 33 of the laid-off booksellers.

McNally Jackson said it is paying staff through this week and maintaining health insurance for the time being "and working to extend this coverage as long as we can. The employees should also qualify for unemployment benefits as the state has accelerated that process."

The Raven Launches Book Benefactors Program

The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., has launched a program called Book Benefactors that will bring surprise deliveries of books to people "who could really use them right now." 

Through the Book Benefactors website, people can nominate someone (including themselves) who they think could use a curated selection of new books. Nominating is free and done through an online form, and the Book Benefactors care packages can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. or hand-delivered in the Lawrence area.

People can sponsor the care packages by becoming a Book Benefactor, also through the program's website. Book Benefactors also receive a 15% off code to use on The Raven's website when they donate.

According to store owner Danny Caine, the program raised more than $1,000 in its first few hours and more than 20 people have been nominated for surprise deliveries. The idea for the program, he explained, came from a chat with author Deb Olin Unferth, who is local and taught at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. She gave the store a call because she saw that The Raven is offering free local delivery, and she wanted to pay for some surprise deliveries to local people.

"I was so gobsmacked by her generosity," Caine recalled. "I also really loved her idea--there are folks who are out of work, or quarantined, or both. Books won't solve those problems but they'll help."

Caine also reported that things at the store are strangely busy. Not in terms of foot traffic, but the store's new cheaper shipping and free local delivery have proven very popular, so now he and his staff are "scrambling" to fulfill online orders. So far Caine has not had to cut anyone's hours.

"My goal is to not cut anyone's pay for as long as I possibly can," he said. "Bookselling is a thin-margin business, but so is working for a bookstore, and I want to do everything I can to keep The Raven's booksellers from any financial hardship in a very difficult time."

Two California Booksellers Stay Open, Navigating a New World

In Los Angeles, Calif., Skylight Books general manager Mary Williams reported that the store will stay open for as long as it can.

Bars, movie theaters and gyms have all been closed, while restaurants can only do take out or delivery, and Williams said she and her team feel it's "only a matter of time" before the city or state closes retailers as well. But until that time, Skylight plans to stay open.

So far, sales have been steady overall, but the majority of them have transitioned to online or phone orders. Over the weekend, foot traffic was slower than normal but still busier than one might think. Come Monday morning, however, there were definitely more staff members in store than customers.

Thanks in part to promotions that include free media mail delivery for all book orders and $5 priority mail shipping for orders over $25, Williams has seen a significant increase in the number of online orders. The store is also offering curbside pickup, though only a handful of people have made use of the offer.

On the subject of how her staff is faring, Williams said the uncertainty is very hard on everyone. She doesn't know how long the store will be able to remain open, or how long the store can afford to pay everyone their full wages should the store have to close for more than a few weeks. The increase in online sales is certainly helping, but it's still not up to the level of in-store sales with author events almost every night.

Williams added that this is very unlike a recession, where costs and sales ramp down over time. In this case, she said, "we have all our regular invoices from the past month or two coming due, with sales potentially dropping dramatically all at once. We didn't anticipate this scenario, and it's a scary one now that it's here."

In Brentwood, Calif., DIESEL, a bookstore is also staying open, with co-owners John Evans and Alison Reid planning to reassess the situation day-by-day and frequently check in with their staff members. Starting this week the store is operating on slightly reduced hours (10-6 instead of 10-8), but that has more to do with one staff member having just moved away and another being on vacation than with the pandemic.

Evans reported that the store is certainly not crowded, but people are still coming in, especially to look for books, puzzles and games for children who are now home from school. DIESEL has also started doing free local delivery and curbside pickup, and while the latter has been popular, no one has really taken advantage of the free local delivery. Evans pointed to curbside pickup as a good option that could allow bookstores to keep doing business without having customers enter the shop, since they can pay online or over the phone.

Until this week, Evans continued, most of what he and his colleagues were dealing with was canceled or postponed events. Now, he and Reid are weighing whether to remain open, with the safety and health of their staff their biggest concerns. At the same time, it seems that staying open and providing books could be very helpful to people.

"It's very hard to tell what the best thing is to do," Evans said.

A Bookseller's Argument for a Main Street Bailout

Book Moon owners Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

On Sunday on Twitter, Gavin J. Grant, co-owner of Small Beer Press and Book Moon bookstore in Easthampton, Mass., outlined the argument for "a Main Street bailout." It reads:

"We need a #MainStreetBailout.

"We greatly appreciate those online and in the real world who have supported us and ordered books from our website but the burden to support small businesses should not be on individuals (customers, celebrities, or philanthropists): this is a moment that requires federal intervention.

"I want to write about why SBA loans are not going to help and why the federal government has to take actions it has never done before through the lens of one small bookshop, Book Moon, in Easthampton, Mass. This isn't about Book Moon: this is about all the small businesses in this country--and by expansion, all countries undergoing the Covid-19 pandemic social distancing closedown.

"Book Moon closed today for at least the next two weeks. The rent is due in 2 weeks. The utilities are due. We are still paying our part-time booksellers, though we ourselves do not draw a salary. We're offering Take Out/Curbside pick up and we'll see how it goes. We're getting lots of online orders (THANK YOU!). Online orders have costs which I can go into elsewhere but are not the focus here.

"In a normal day, for every $1.00 in income we have about $0.99 in costs. For every $1 that comes in, the books cost about $0.60. Wages and utilities, insurance, rent, ads, &c cost about $0.39, leaving us $0.01. We're in our first year and if we can keep it to a 1% margin, we are going to be very happy.

"But. What happens if there's no income? We still need to pay for the books we've been ordering and those ordered for 'take out' or internet orders. And we still have those fixed costs. But: There is no income. How long can we go on?

"On Monday our bank account balance will be the equivalent of 8 days income. (I am not including actual liabilities, what we owe suppliers.) So without income we can go about 20 days before our bank account is empty. (This is why I am talking about *all* small businesses: internet orders may push that out another week or so: other businesses may have fewer days.)

"All the small businesses in my community and yours do not need SBA loans. Many are healthy businesses in danger of closing due to extraordinary circumstances. If we're spending 97, 98, or 99c to make a dollar, we can't take on loans. Loans are going to be an extraordinary future burden for all these small businesses.

"We need the federal government to write checks, not loans: we need a #MainStreetBailout or the stores are going to start closing and who knows if they'll be able to open again?

"Call your Senator. Call your Representative."

Obituary Note: Andreas Brown

Andreas Brown, "a bibliophile since childhood who bought the revered Gotham Book Mart in Midtown Manhattan from its idiosyncratic founder, Frances Steloff, and kept it alive as a frowzy literary shrine for four more decades," died March 6, the New York Times reported. He was 86.

When he was in his 30s, Brown worked as book and manuscript appraiser. A regular visitor to the Gotham from California, he was invited out to lunch by Steloff in 1967. She was about to turn 80, and "offered to sell him the overstuffed repository of avant-garde publications that she had opened in 1920," the Times noted. Brown accepted the "offer he couldn't refuse--even if, as it turned out, Miss Steloff never completely let go of the Gotham. She remained at her post in an alcove in the store, located in a five-story townhouse on West 47th Street, and in her apartment upstairs. She collected a paycheck until she died in 1989 at 101."

"At the time she sold me the store, she said, 'It's very important that you know you are not the owner, you are only the caretaker of the store.' " Brown recalled in 1990.

Under his care, the Gotham "remained more like a salon than a store," the Times wrote. "Stacks of novels, magazines, reference books and unidentified volumes in still-unpacked cartons towered precariously on the creaky wooden floorboards at what had become a sanctuary for celebrated authors, embryonic writers and aficionados of contemporary literature--the last of the literary landmarks that once dotted Fifth Avenue and vicinity."

Among the writers who developed a relationship with the Gotham were Saul Bellow, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore and J.D. Salinger. Brown also showcased Edward Gorey's work by placing his books by the cash register, and he archived Tennessee Williams's papers.

Stelloff had opened her store on West 45th Street in 1920 (the Gotham moved to 41 West 47th in 1946). After her death, competition from online sites, astronomical rents and a failure to digitize inventory created financial challenges for Brown, who also became embroiled in a lawsuit with Joanne Carson, the former wife of Johnny Carson, over a loan/investment disagreement.

In 2003, Brown sold the West 47th Street building, where he lived, and the next year opened the Gotham Book Mart & Gallery at 16 East 46th Street. In 2006, "with the store's $51,000 monthly rent overdue, the landlords started eviction proceedings and seized the inventory," the Times wrote, adding that it was sold at auction for $400,000 and in 2008 200,000 items were donated anonymously to the University of Pennsylvania.

"The customers love the nostalgia; they don't want it to change," he told the Times in 2001. "But if you're trying to run the store, the nostalgia wears thin very quickly."

He once observed: "Before I came here and owned it, I was an organized person. I believe in having things filed away and in retrievable order.... The more I straightened things out, the more customers complained."


Image of the Day: Madison Street Books Grand Opening

Madison Street Books, Chicago, Ill., celebrated its grand opening over the weekend with kids' activities throughout the day and an adult party in the evening. Today, owners Javier Ramirez and Mary Mollman thanked everyone for their support and announced, "In consideration of the health of our neighbors, patrons, employees and friends, Madison Street Books will be closed until further notice. In the meantime check out our website for all of your book browsing and buying needs. Curbside pick-up and free delivery available in the West Loop. $1 shipping nationally. See you when we can all breathe a deep sigh... of relief that the trend is downward."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Max Lugavere on the Rachael Ray

The View: Dana Loesch, author of Grace Canceled: How Outrage Is Destroying Lives, Ending Debate, and Endangering Democracy (Regnery, $28.99, 9781684510146).

Rachael Ray: Max Lugavere, author of The Genius Life: Heal Your Mind, Strengthen Your Body, and Become Extraordinary (Harper Wave, $28.99, 9780062892812).

Late Late Show with James Corden repeat: June Diane Raphael, co-author of Represent: The Woman's Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World (Workman, $19.95, 9781523502974).

TV: Niall Ferguson's Networld

Tomorrow night is the premier of PBS's three-part, one-night event Niall Ferguson's Networld, which was inspired by historian Niall Ferguson's bestselling book The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook (Penguin Books). PBS says: "From the Reformation and 17th century witch-hunting, through the American Revolution and to the nightmare visions of Orwell's 1984, Ferguson explores the intersection of social media, technology and the spread of cultural movements."

Book Review

Review: Hollywood Double Agent: The True Tale of Boris Morros, Film Producer Turned Cold War Spy

Hollywood Double Agent: The True Tale of Boris Morros, Film Producer Turned Cold War Spy by Jonathan Gill (Abrams, $27 hardcover, 336p., 9781419740091, April 7, 2020)

Soviet spies! G-men! Blackmail! Assassins! Silly code names! This sounds like a movie, but they can all be found in Hollywood Double Agent: The True Tale of Boris Morros, Film Producer Turned Cold War Spy, a biography of perhaps the world's most improbable secret agent.

It wasn't just that Morros was short, bald, rotund, poorly dressed and otherwise superficially the anti-James Bond; he was also, writes Jonathan Gill (Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America), "ideologically uncommitted, constitutionally indiscreet, addicted to fame and money, and oblivious to the distinction between truth and fiction." When researching Hollywood Double Agent, Gill couldn't rely on Morros's 1959 autobiography, My Ten Years as a Counterspy--even Morros's widow called it fiction. Instead, Gill turned to previously classified documents from the FBI and the KGB, and the result is a gob-smackingly good read.

Morros was born in 1891 in Russia; a piano prodigy, he became a member of the tsar's court. After the Russian Revolution, Morros went to Baku, Azerbaijan, and met Catherine, a wealthy woman with a sick husband. Morros fled with her to Constantinople, where, as someone "more interested in Mozart than Marx," he resolved to get to Europe or the U.S. After Catherine's husband died, she became Morros's first wife, and the pair managed to secure passage on a boat to New York in 1922. Following a stint in Boston, where Morros massaged the truth to become the director of music at a synagogue, he and Catherine returned to Manhattan in 1925. There Morros made a name for himself in the music biz working for Paramount Pictures, impressing founder Adolph Zukor. But Zukor wasn't the only one taking note of Morros's rise.

At a meeting in 1934, by which point Morros was one of the pillars of the Paramount operation, Soviet agents appealed to him to help create an anti-fascist underground in Germany in exchange for cash. For starters, Morros was to provide cover: he would fabricate business correspondence and send a monthly "salary" to Germany for "Herbert," who was ostensibly there to scout for talent. Soon Morros was expected to do more. He worked his second job even after he moved to the West Coast to head Paramount's music department. This was Hollywood's golden age, and Morros was realizing his dream of becoming a big-shot movie producer--until the demands of his sideline started to take over his life.

Readers of Hollywood Double Agent may come for the glitter, but they'll stay for the intrigue. Although Gill's book reads like a Cold War thriller, at heart it's the amazing true story of an American dream gone wrong. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Like a multiplex blockbuster, this biography of a Russian-born Hollywood player turned spy has it all: intrigue, glamour, humor, romance and danger.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. The Wrong/Right Man by Aurora Rose Reynolds
2. Wildfire (Men of Inked: Heatwave Book 3) by Chelle Bliss
3. The Devil Drinks Coffee by Destiny Ford
4. A Dead Cold Box Set by Blake Banner
5. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
6. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
7. Carter (The K9 Files Book 7) by Dale Mayer
8. The Trade by Meghan Quinn
9. The Dare by Lauren Landish
10. Angry God by L.J. Shen

[Many thanks to!]

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