Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, March 24, 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

Bronx's Lit. Bar: 'We'll Return from the Rona Stronger Than Ever'

"Dearest Bookboos,

Everything's trash, but it's okay. We're from The Bronx; and if I had to bet on any community to thrive under uncertainty with limited resources... welp, I'm just saying. All half-jokes (my coping mechanism) aside, The Rona has affected us all personally and professionally in various degrees, and I hope this finds you and your loved ones in good health and relatively good spirits.

I've put out most of the fires ignited by our temporary closure and now I'm here to reconfirm our commitment to you. In the 10 months since our opening, we've collectively put our borough on the literary map through our events, partnerships, and day-to-day connections. We are in a position to survive this and look forward to returning stronger than ever.

If you keep up with my interviews, you know that digital media production was already on the horizon for us as a way to stay innovative and impact diversity in the greater literary landscape. We're taking this opportunity to ramp up those efforts as well as develop projects (that I over-ambitiously thought we'd launch in our first year) like Kiddie Lit'r programming, indie author love, poetry slams, book clubs... and yes, CAFECITO! For me personally, I'll finally get around to staying off the ankle I sprained last month and do the thing that business stole from me: READ :)

We look forward to staying creatively connected with you while our doors are closed...."

--Noëlle Santos, owner of the Lit. Bar, Bronx, N.Y., in part of a letter to customers on Sunday

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


Wholesalers and Distributors: Open for Business

A spot check with wholesalers and distributors showed that all are open and processing orders, exempt from or unaffected by stay-in-place orders.

Bookazine, Bayonne, N.J., is open and processing orders, according to COO Rich Kallman, who said that the current crisis was even more challenging than 9/11 or Super Storm Sandy or the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Most Bookazine staff is working from home except for key positions and the reduced staff in the warehouse. The company added: "We are in constant contact with our shipping partners, and our sales, finance and other office staff are fully available to you as usual. Please do not hesitate to contact us with orders or with any questions at all. We are here to help you get your customers their book product, and we are here for you."


The Hopkins Fulfillment Services Maple warehouse in Pennsylvania is open and fully operational. HFS is also working with stores affected by closures in their areas and can re-route shipments, hold orders and change delivery dates, and is willing to work with them on terms to get everyone through the shutdown periods. HFS can also potentially work with stores to ship directly to their customers.


Independent Publishers Group continues to operate its Chicago warehouse as an essential business under the "shelter-in-place" order issued by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. A strategic crew is in place at the warehouse, running in split shifts to eliminate any overlap between team members. IPG's office is closed, and all office staff are working remotely.

"IPG will remain open through these hard times as our obligation is to protect the businesses of the publishers we distribute and to support the national supply chain," CEO Joe Matthews said. "The health and wellness of our partners and employees remains of utmost importance, and steps are being taken to guard all areas of IPG's book business. Books are an essential part of American life."

The company has added the following initiatives:

Effective immediately, IPG is offering a 30% discount site-wide for most of its products. IPG is extending a 30% e-book discount to public and school libraries through OverDrive, 3M Bibliotheca, Baker & Taylor, Mackin, Follett, Vitalsource and Redshelf

IPG's publishing partners are supporting consumers, parents and students with virtual author events and digital resources

All of IPG's catalogues, including frontlist and special categories, will be available as digital editions and can be found at or on Edelweiss

To accommodate publishers whose print runs may have been disrupted, IPG is optimizing its digital print program and manufacturing books to order.


Penguin Random House's huge warehouse and distribution center in Westminster, Md., was spared the governor's order that all nonessential businesses in Maryland close. As the company put it, those operations are considered essential because "our center serves to distribute books to the online and physical retailers that remain open, who get out books to the citizens of all states, including educators and students who, with their school year postponed or ended, must have them for virtual learning, and to general readers of all ages, for whom they provide knowledge and comfort to sustain them in this time of terrible uncertainty and disruption."

The PRH facility is, of course, practicing "all guidelines and protocols for sanitizing, social distancing, and safe work practices to ensure our employees are protected" and urged employees who don't feel well not to come to work and to consult medical professionals. PRH is also adding 40 hours of paid time off to those whose jobs require them to be present at the facility.


Simon & Schuster's warehouses in Riverside, N.J., and Milan, Tenn., are both open, operating with reduced staff, both for safety reasons and to accommodate current workloads. Employees who can work remotely, such as the customer service team, are doing so.

The warehouse has been focused on accommodating changes in publishing schedules, in ordering patterns and in the number of outlets that are open to accept shipment of books. When possible, S&S is shipping directly from binderies to accounts.

S&S has seen "aggressive ordering" from wholesalers, especially for backlist titles. At accounts that sell groceries and other supplies, the company is seeing strong traffic and book sales, with children's books doing particularly well at some of those accounts.

S&S is, it said, "working to accommodate the needs of both the independents and the chains as they adapt to their particular local circumstances, and are exploring with them alternate means for holding events."


The staff at Hachette Book Group's Lebanon, Ind., warehouse and distribution center is continuing to work every day "keeping HBG's and our clients' books moving out to the marketplace," the company said, and it is taking precautions to ensure the safety of workers.

Hachette added that its books are "continuing to sell in all formats, with the strongest sales in e-books, trade paperbacks, and children's books. Audiobooks are continuing to perform well in all sales channels, and we're seeing sales continue to rise both in online retail and libraries." The company is also adding "extensive online programming through our social channels, websites and newsletters to connect our authors with readers and ensure that our books have maximum visibility."

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

University Press Indie Store Vouchers; Book a Day; AAP Resource Page

To help support independent bookstores during the pandemic, Columbia University Press and Princeton University Press are reimbursing purchases staff members make at indies. At Columbia University Press, employees are getting $100 vouchers to spend at any indie between now and the end of April. Jennifer Crewe, director of Columbia University Press, reported that Christie Henry, director of Princeton University Press, first thought of the idea while various university press directors were swapping ideas about "working from home, keeping staff morale up and supporting the whole system by trying to support independent stores." 

Crewe jumped on the idea right away, and while her sales reps came up with a list of indies that have been their best customers over the years, staff can spend the $100 at any indie they choose. She noted that although sales are bad at the moment and the press is losing money overall, it is saving on some things like travel, "so we just decided to tell staff that we'd reimburse them up to $100 for purchases of books from independent stores."


Reading Group Choices has launched a daily recommendation feature called Book a Day. Each day, RGC will choose a new or classic title and feature it prominently on its Facebook and Twitter pages, along with buy buttons to IndieBound, Bookshop or the favorite independent bookstore of that title's author. Some of the Book a Day selections will also feature Facebook Live author events.

The idea for the program grew out of discussions about what a "book vitamin" might look like during the pandemic, with bookstores in many states forced to close and practically all author events canceled nationwide.


The Association of American Publishers has created a COVID-19 central resource page to provide information about what publishers are doing to support authors, readers, researchers, educators, booksellers, and libraries during the coronavirus pandemic that will be continuously updated as more information is provided.

"Publishing is built upon the principle of transformation," AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante commented. "Our normal focus is to invest in authors, champion education, and connect readers to stories and scholarship that inform, inspire and empower them.

"Now, as the pandemic continues to threaten and disrupt our lives in unprecedented ways, the point of publishing is clearer than ever and publishers are embracing their responsibilities to the public. Across all sectors we see commercial publishing houses, nonprofit societies, and university presses working to address the crisis, with many publishers creating special programs, flexible licenses, and other initiatives to propel reading, learning, and commerce.

"These initiatives include offering complimentary digital education materials, expanding powerful storytelling platforms for general public use, and making research and medical journals pertaining to the coronavirus freely available to the scientists and doctors who are on the frontlines of the pandemic."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Exemptions, Transitions, Connections

Riverstone Books in Pittsburgh received an exemption from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's order that all non-life-sustaining businesses shut down at 8 a.m. Monday. Riverstone owner Barbara Jeremiah had applied for the exemption so the store could continue to fill phone/online orders as well as offer curbside and home deliveries.

The governor's office wrote, in part: "In response to your request for an exemption from the applicability of the COVID-19 Orders,... it has been determined that your business, to the extent described in your application, plays a critical role in the manufacture and supply of goods and services necessary to sustain life, and may continue to operate at the physical location identified in your application."


Independent booksellers across Rhode Island "are trying to adapt to a changing world, where community and author events that have long been the hallmark of local bookstores are now restricted by public health officials trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19," the Providence Journal reported, adding that many indie bookstores "are working to keep business flowing by transitioning to online selling and trying to preserve their local touch, even if they can't have a physical storefront."

"I think the hardest thing for bookstores across the country is that we've worked so hard to build this reputation as community spaces," said Annie Philbrick, owner of the Savoy Bookshop and Cafe in Westerly and Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn. "To shut down and operate in virtual reality, it's pretty dire." She closed both stores last week. Business was strong, but there were too many people in the shops and she worried it was becoming a public health hazard. She has had to furlough 32 employees.

Events had to be canceled as well through the end of April. Philbrick's  stores coordinated more than 300 events last year, a principal source of revenue. "That's what bookstores do for the community--support these authors, let people get to know them, let them read," she added. "Amazon doesn't do that."

Twenty Stories in Providence canceled a reading last Friday, then moved it online to Instagram Live, where more than 100 people tuned in. Co-owner Alexa Trembly said, "I think it's still possible to stay in touch with your community during this time, but whether or not that will translate into sales, I guess, is the question."


Javier Ramirez and Mary Mollman at Madison Street Books.

Mary Mollman and Javier Ramirez "threw a grand opening party on March 14 for their new store, Madison Street Books, complete with a balloon arch and a morning-to-night roster of activities. Two days later, they--like countless other Chicago businesses--shut down temporarily 'in consideration of the health of our neighbors, patrons, employees and friends' during the COVID-19 outbreak," the Tribune noted to introduce a q&a with the co-owners. Among the highlights:

How are you handling the fact that you've invested so much in opening a business, only to have to temporarily shutter it almost immediately due to the coronavirus?
Mollman: Needless to say, it's a bummer, but the health and safety of all our patrons, neighbors and fellow citizens is what's most important. That said, I am grateful for the support we have had from customers with online orders. Our Web store information went up on social media, and the response has been overwhelming. It warms my heart.

Parents face the demand of how to keep their kids entertained while schools are closed. I see you're still having your Wednesday Toddler Jams--"a place for kids to let loose and parents to connect"--but virtually. Are virtual events going to be the way to go for a while?
Mollman: Virtual Toddler Jam with Miss Dawn-Marie was amazing today. We had 87 viewers! We'll start doing virtual recommendations at 5 p.m. nightly, and a rotating recommendation display each morning at 11 a.m. on social media. We had originally planned a PJ Story hour on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. and will most likely start doing that virtually as well.


Kenny Brechner

Kenny Brechner, owner of Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, reported that his store is closed for browsing and running on slightly reduced hours for curbside pickup and delivery. Customers have been making use of curbside pickup in a "giant way," and Brechner said sales have actually not yet been impacted, but he feels as if he's working "five times as hard for the same bottom line," and that he's "never been so tired" in his life. He plans to look into things like virtual story times and other online events, but he said he needs to "whittle down my four-alarm fire punch list a little farther" before tackling that.

On the subject of his staff, Brechner said they're in good spirits, and they are all of the opinion that living in an historic moment "is both more and less than one might have imagined." He explained that he's been able to keep paychecks "close to status quo," thanks in part to his assistant manager, who is immune compromised, coming into work only in the morning before the shop starts doing curbside pick-up.

Brechner added that for more than 20 years, he's been "kind of the Bernie Sanders of independent bookstore e-commerce, advocating for it as a means to support our store narratives," and noted that this crisis has been an opportunity to make use of those online platforms "in a really meaningful way." One popular example he pointed to was a series of three-book bundles, all organized around a theme and discounted by 15%, that he and his team have created.

International Book Trade: Bookshops Still Open in Australia

Australian bookshops and other retailers can continue to trade for now under the new "non-essential services" lockdown measures put in place yesterday by the federal government in response to COVID-19. Australian Booksellers Association CEO Robbie Egan told Books+Publishing he is "waiting for clarification on whether the state guidelines would include a specific ruling on retailers such as bookshops, but that he was drafting a letter to request an exemption for bookshops in the event that state governments decide that bookshops come under the term 'non-essential services.' "

He added that while some bookshops have decided to close their doors, others are trading "as best they can" by introducing hygiene measures and floor markings to promote social distancing. "It's a moral decision by owners with their staff; we shouldn't be angry at people for doing either."


Booksellers New Zealand has released a COVID-19 response that focuses on what the association can do that will have a material impact on the lives and business of members. 

"This is just the beginning," association manager Dan Slevin said. "If you have any other ideas for how we can leverage the power of the association to do things that individual members don't have the capacity to do for themselves, please talk to us. We have been in contact with Retail NZ and they are working on sector-wide issues like rent relief and Paywave. In our discussions with publishers, they signaled that they see some difficulties getting stock into NZ over the next few months as freight capacity is impacted but they are also realistic about the pressures being faced by booksellers on the front line and made it clear that we are all going to have to work together to get through this.

"I'll close by saying that, while a pandemic might be unprecedented, we have all been through crises--and even recessions--before. I know this isn't my first rodeo! One thing I have learned about recessions is that they eventually end. In the meantime, continue to provide great service to your customers and look after your people. They will remember you when the good times come back. This too shall pass. Noho ora mai rā."


Dieter Dausien, owner of the bookstore Buchladen am Freiheitsplatz in Hanau, Germany, told the BBC he understands why his bookshop has been told to shut down, but that doesn't make it any easier: "The worst thing is the uncertainty as to how long the closures will last. We deliver books to customers at home, or leave ordered books in front of our door for customers to collect, making sure there is no human contact. But it's a much greater effort to prepare books for shipping than to sell in store."


Toronto Life featured seven of the Canadian city's bookstores "doing delivery--plus their quarantine reading recommendations," noting that "there's only so much Netflix you can watch in a day. As Torontonians hunker down in self-imposed isolation, bookstores are seeing increased demand for reading material."

"Indie bookstores are incredibly vulnerable right now," said Joanne Saul, co-owner of Type Books. "We need all the help we can get, frankly. We don't have an online platform to help us out. This is our equivalent."

"We've never experienced a loss of income so dramatically before, without any ability to plan and prepare," Michael Erickson, co-owner of Glad Day Bookshop, observed, noting that Glad Day has launched an emergency fund for LGBTQ artists, performers and tip workers in the community, with 15% going toward keeping Glad Day alive. "We know the community wants us to be here when it's all over."


In Sweden last Friday, Uppsala English Bookshop in Uppsala posted on Facebook: "IT'S BEEN A WEIRD WEEK, but we thought we'd take a moment to sum up the gratitude we feel towards you--our amazing community of booklovers--for the support you have offered. All week you have been worried about us; stopping in to ask how we're doing and at the same time making sure to stock up. You have been contacting us from all around the country--placing big orders (3 customers with orders over 35 books per head just this week!!!), stating your support and joining our curated book club for a full YEAR in advance.... The list goes on.

"These are tough times but with your love and support we will come through this--stronger than ever before even. So--thank you everyone. We feel humble. Judging from you guys humanity is a pretty good crowd to hang out with. The way a community can come together in a time of hardship is truly inspirational."

A Solution for Capital-Starved Independent Bookstores in the Wake of COVID-19

The following is a proposal made by Jack McKeown, former president and CEO of the Perseus Books Group and former president and publisher of the Adult Trade Group at HarperCollins. From 2010 to 2016, he co-owned and operated Books & Books Westhampton Beach in New York with his wife, Denise Berthiaume.

The week of March 16, 2020, brought the depressing news that dozens of independent bookstores temporarily have closed their doors to physical retail business in the wake of the escalating COVID-19 outbreak. Talented frontline booksellers have been furloughed indefinitely. Depending on the duration of the crisis, many previously thriving bookstores will exhaust their reserves of working capital in short order and be forced to close indefinitely. When the virus finally breaks, perhaps as late as late summer or early fall, many stores will lack the funds to pay off their debts, restore inventory levels, and hire back staff in order to stage a timely reopening. Short-term measures such as publisher/wholesaler forbearance programs, landlord-negotiated rent cuts, or Binc grants will be insufficient to jumpstart re-openings in time for the critical 2020 holiday season.

Securing adequate investment and working capital, never an easy task for independent bookstores, has been elevated to crisis proportions by the outbreak and accompanying recession. Some lucky stores will be able to draw on new equity from friends and family, community GoFundMe campaigns, or even the occasional bank or Small Business Administration loan, but the overwhelmingly majority will find no realistic prospect of rescue. Is there a solution--one that could help independent bookstores maintain their local competitive advantage and even promote their sustainability for years to come?

The Background
From my many years as a publishing executive, I always have believed that turbulent times in our industry foster opportunity as well as dislocation. The concept that I am floating is not especially complicated, but it does require a leap of imagination and strong leadership at the national level.

A thriving neighborhood bookstore is recognized as a key element in the social, cultural and economic fabric of any community. This is an opinion widely shared by urban planners, government planning boards, Smart Growth advocates and real-estate developers around the country. They will tell you that a bookstore offers a tremendous public amenity that should be built into the master plan of any new development or neighborhood revitalization. Main Street retail was decimated when suburban malls exploded decades ago, but many independent bookstores have rebounded over the last 10 years. They benefited from increasing appeal of urban environments and densifying town centers, particularly to younger and more affluent demographic groups. The stabilization of the print market vs. e-books by 2015 helped to cement that trend. It would be a national tragedy to allow a black-swan event, such as this pandemic, to extinguish those gains.

The Concept
Essentially, my concept advances a neighborhood recovery and sustainability argument, with the independent bookstore at its center. I would like to propose the creation of a Neighborhood Bookstore Recovery Bank (NBRB). It is inspired by such special-purpose investment vehicles as the Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI)--a successful program launched in 2004 to address America's "food desert" communities. The program ended after six years when all its funds were deployed in jumpstarting neighborhood grocery stores. It also incorporates some of the mechanisms behind the proposed National Infrastructure Bank, as described by Felix Rohatyn and Everett Ehrlich in their October 2008 article for the New York Review of Books ("A New Bank to Save Our Infrastructure") that became a centerpiece of Hillary Clinton's economic policy platform in 2016. It is designed to funnel and accelerate the provision of working capital beyond whatever mechanisms may be available through specific Federal or local programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond that immediate goal, it would provide an engine for sustainable growth for both new and existing stores well into the future.

The NBRB would be structured as a private investment entity that evaluates project proposals and assembles a portfolio of investments to fund them. It would look to a prominent trade organization, such as the American Booksellers Association, to provide leadership in the form of a mission charter and board memberships, but otherwise would operate at arms-length. At the heart of the concept is a NBRB Commission, a committee of professionals who would evaluate proposals to provide loans to recovering, or later to start-up bookstores, on a case-by-case basis. The ABA could assist individual bookstores in assembling their business plans, but the bank's Commission would operate independently and with the highest transparency, in order to attract capital and maintain the bank on a sound economic footing.

Mission of the NBRB
The NBRB's core mission would be to promote the recovery of healthy independent bookstores and to provide start-up funds to new bookseller entrepreneurs in the aftermath of COVID-19, while simultaneously generating acceptable returns to the bank's investors. Among its specific goals would be the following:

Short-term and Intermediate:

  • Support the working capital requirements of recovering bookstores as COVID-19 dissipates.

Long Term:

  • Assist established bookstores in converting from commercial rental to ownership of their storefronts
  • Promote the creation of new bookstores in underserved markets or as part of new real-estate developments
  • Convert buildings to bookstores through adaptive reuse of historic structures, acquisitions of distressed properties or by foreclosure sales
  • Support established bookstores in upgrading their systems and websites, and in creating or expanding their marketing and e-commerce capabilities

A recommended balance of investments between existing and new stores over time would be 80/20--a conservative approach meant to mitigate some of the risk of a portfolio too heavily weighted toward start-ups.

The NBRB would be capitalized through an initial round of paid-in equity and then leveraged at a suggested conservative ratio of 3:1. So, for instance, $3.5 million in minimum seed capital would be leveraged to $15 million at the outset. The pool of initial investors could include the ABA itself, along with such interested players as national wholesaler Ingram and the investment arms of the major publishing houses. These parties would stand to earn meaningful annual dividends as well as long-term appreciation on their investments. All the while they would be supporting the recovery and growth of a vital customer class: America's community of independent bookstores.

Armed with an initial round of industry-aligned investors, the NBRB commission next would petition the Federal, state and local governments for a matching level of grant money, subsidiary loans or loan guarantees as part of its financing. Ultimately the bank's loans would be packaged and sold in the secondary capital markets, timed to take advantage of the recovery. The NBRB also would tap into the federal government's interest in stimulating capital investment in local, community-based development projects and in promoting sustainability. Government grants and guarantees could be a significant part of the solution to jump-start the effort, as has been the case with the FFFI. In addition, the NBRB could provide an engine for private-public partnerships at the local level, including community-owned bookstore retail via chartered stock companies.

Additional seed capital could be secured from REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and private equity companies, perhaps as part of larger real-estate development financings. Capital would be callable beyond the seed round, with the ultimate objective of achieving a ratio of $10 million: $40 million by year three. These sums may strike some observers as modest indeed, but their impact on recovering independent bookstores (and their communities) would be dramatic, considering the under-capitalized state of the business now. With working capital loans averaging $50,000-$75,000, for example, some 200-300 struggling indies could be put on the path to a sustainable future in the near term.

In conclusion, the NBRB could play a major role in changing the narrative on independent bookstores in the wake of COVID-19. It would play into larger demographic patterns, such as the ongoing retirement of 75 million baby boomers, the urban migration of younger age groups and the contraction of America's malls. These trends point to the development of better bricks-and-mortar, neighborhood-centered retail. With adequate capital at their disposal, and equipped with strong business plans that meet the NBRB's road test, independent booksellers could reposition themselves for a brighter future.


Image of the Day: 'When We Can See You in This Space Again'

From Joanna Parzakonis, co-owner (with Derek Molitor) of this is a bookstore & Bookbug, Kalamazoo, Mich.:

"This picture was taken of us two weeks ago, by a friend who understood both our reluctance--and need--to be photographed as representative of the store. When she asked me (a month ago) what it was I hoped for the picture to say, I said that I wanted it to indicate our welcome into a space that we tend but that belongs to all, for it to not be about Derek and me as individuals, but about the space we inhabit and community we welcome.

"One week after closing the bookstore to the public and now understanding our redefined role in urgent service to community, the picture of us in this space has new meaning. We hope it can offer our personal promise to our customers and staff that we will move daily and with our highest level of care and capacity to serve both you and our knowledge of the value of a soonest possible day in the future when we can see you in this space again."

Coronavirus-fighting Ideas: Curbside Chair Pick-up, Care Packages

Many temporarily shuttered indie bookstores are finding innovative ways to serve their customers, spark engagement and keep lines of communication open during this challenging time.

Pull up to a chair. Octavia Books, New Orleans, La., posted: "Talk to the chair. Curbside pickup is easy. Place orders.... We will let you know when your books are ready. Let us know as you approach and the chair will have your books waiting...."


"Who could use a little fun?" asked the Bookshop, East Nashville, Tenn. "Our friend Jane Mount of Ideal Bookshelf (tons of y'all have bought her bookish prints at our shop) is offering a printable blank template so that you can design your very own ideal bookshelf. Squee! I'm working on mine (still pondering my books at the moment) and can't wait to share--though I'm hardly artistic, so please rein in your expectations. Tag us and @idealbookshelf when you post yours--can't wait to see! 


Capitol Hill Books, Washington, D.C., tweeted its "favorite e-mail of the day so far: 'If I give you guys $100 can you send me a mystery bag of books?' Yes. Yes we can." The tweet spurred a string of bookstores across the country to do the same.


Customized Care (and Self-Care) Packages for Booklovers are being offered by Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz.: "Send love, send books, and support Changing Hands until we re-open to the public! Reach out while 'social distancing' by sending Booklover Care Packages to friends, family, co-workers, employees--anyone at all, including yourself! Because when a reader is stuck at home, what's better than book mail?"


In its Sunday update, Greedy Reads, Baltimore, Md., said "today was our last day offering curbside pickup and local delivery.... We've put as much as we can into both store windows. If your daily walk takes you past either store, take a peek! We are still offering $1 shipping on items we have in stock. Email the store and we'll get back to you as quickly as possible."

Personnel Changes at Hachette

In Hachette Book Group's sales department:

Dale Wilstermann has been promoted to executive director, Nashville sales. He joined the company as part of the acquisition of Worthy Publishers as senior director of sales and last year added the role of Nashville liaison, which he continues.

Derek Meehan has been promoted to senior manager, telephone sales. He joined the company in 2017.

Laura Fernandez has been promoted to client sales manager. She will continue managing the sales relationship between Hachette Book Group and Hachette UK, as well as add Octopus, Mobius, and Lonely Planet. She formerly was coordinator, client sales and earlier was sales and marketing assistant at Perseus Publishing.


Katie Boni has joined Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as publicist. Previously, she worked at Bloomsbury as associate publicist.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Newt Gingrich on the View

The View: Newt Gingrich, co-author of Shakedown: A Novel (Broadside Books, $27.99, 9780062860194).

Books & Authors

Awards: Rathbones Folio, Windham Campbell Winners

Valeria Luiselli, the Mexican novelist and essayist who lives in New York City, has won the £30,000 (about $35,190) 2020 Rathbones Folio Prize for Lost Children Archive, her third novel and her first to be written in English and published in the U.S. by Knopf and Vintage. Organizers called the winning title "a fiercely imaginative autobiographical work of fiction. In a breath-taking feat of literary virtuosity, it intertwines two journeys--a family road trip and the stories of thousands of children trying to cross the Southern border into the U.S.--to create a masterful novel full of echoes and reflections. A moving, powerful, and urgent novel, it tells a prescient story about what it is to be human in an inhuman world."

Chair of judges Paul Farley described Lost Children Archive as a "genuinely original and bravura performance of a novel: a road trip, a documentary, a portrait of a family and of the American borderlands, and a journey into the idea of home and belonging."


Winners were announced for the Windham Campbell Prizes, which "highlight literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns." The unrestricted grant of $165,000 comes with virtually no strings attached, except that each writer is expected to attend a literary festival and awards ceremony held at Yale in September each year.

This year's Windham Campbell winners are Yiyun Lee (U.S./China) and Namwali Serpell (Zambia) in fiction; Maria Tumarkin (Australia) and Anne Boyer (U.S.) in nonfiction; Bhanu Kapil (U.K./India) and Jonah Mixon-Webster (U.S.) in poetry; and Julia Cho (U.S.) and Aleshea Harris (U.S.) in drama.

The international literary community, unable to gather in London as originally planned, tuned into the live-streamed announcement of the prize recipients on March 19, Yale Daily News reported. 

"All around the world, governments are taking action, closing libraries, theatres and schools," said host Damian Barrs in recorded remarks. "People are afraid. Now more than ever, stories have the power to unite us to open hearts and minds, to provide company, to comfort and to console."

While Kelleher still plans to hold the festival, final confirmation of the event's date has been postponed due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Book Review

Review: Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear

Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear by Eva Holland (The Experiment, $24.95 hardcover, 256p., 9781615196005, April 14, 2020)

Eva Holland's debut, Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear, begins with a dramatic scene: the author paralyzed near the end of an ice climbing outing, preferring to remain in place and freeze to death than to take the one step that would bring her to safety. It's a vivid opening to a fascinating book, one that combines self-help with self-examination as Holland investigates the subject of fear in the hope of overcoming her own.

Nerve traces Holland's attempt to understand and wrestle with three broad categories of fears: phobias (in her case, a fear of falling from an unprotected height), post-traumatic stress (the byproduct of four automobile accidents) and fear of death and loss, triggered by the sudden death of her 60-year-old mother following a stroke in July 2015.

Holland leads readers on some interesting excursions into current research on the sources of fear, along with some of its antidotes. After describing her encounter with skydiving--an attempt at a DIY cure for her fear of heights--Holland reports on how scientists used that sport to learn whether humans can smell fear. She tells the story of the woman known as "Patient S.M.," a victim of Urbach-Wiethe disease, a rare disorder that causes those suffering from it to live without any feeling of fear as a result of the absence of the amygdalae, the brain structures responsible for producing that response.

But Holland's real goal is to bring science to bear in an effort to overcome her own terrors. A correspondent for Outside magazine, she lives in the town of Whitehorse, in Canada's Yukon Territory. She pursues an active life outdoors, where her acrophobia was often crippling. In her search for a cure, Holland turns to Dutch clinical psychologist Merel Kindt, who has developed a form of therapy that involves exposing her patients to the fear stimulus, followed by a dose of the beta blocker propranolol. Holland attempts to cure her accident-induced trauma by resorting to a technique known as EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), which requires the patient to move her eyes back and forth in a rhythm while working through the traumatic memories with a trained therapist.

Much of the enjoyment of Nerve involves rooting for Holland as she attempts to wrestle her own fears to the ground, and to report on the outcome of that effort would spoil that pleasure. It's enough to say that by the end of this account, her relationship to fear has changed, something that may well happen to the readers of her engaging book. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: A journalist investigates the science of fear in an effort to master her own.

Deeper Understanding

Bookstore Vagabond on Bookstores During the Pandemic


Anna Thorn

Bookstore Vagabond Anna Thorn talks to stores about their experiences with the pandemic.

Two weeks ago, in what feels like a different time, I began calling bookstores across the country to ask how they were doing and how they were adapting to the coronavirus pendemic. Over the course of these last weeks, I witnessed their reaction shift rapidly from washing hands to closing doors.

Again and again, on phone calls and in newsletters, I heard expressions of the uncertainty and rapidity of the situation. Things were changing "minute by minute"; events were postponed "until further notice." Business owners, and everyone else, struggled to keep up with lists of responses to keep sales up and customers safe: first it was highlighting gift cards, memberships, online shopping, and direct-to-home shipping--and of course so much Purell.

When I called stores located in travel destinations on March 11, vacations that started before the coronavirus escalated hadn't ended yet. Many stores in these tourist-heavy areas told me that out-of-town visitors still accounted for many of their customers. The Booksmith in San Francisco said they were only slightly down in foot-traffic, but they didn't know what to expect once current vacations were over. Cheryl Pearl Sucher from McNally Jackson in Brooklyn, N.Y., said that despite the shock of Broadway and the Met closing, they too were still seeing plenty of tourists coming in. Overall traffic throughout the city was already down, however; as a commuter, Sucher reflected she had never seen Penn Station so empty and clean.

By March 12, Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, Wash.--where the first case of coronavirus in the U.S. was found--had what became standard responses: they postponed events, established an 18-point checklist of places to sanitize at regular times throughout the day, and instituted a new home-delivery program. Wendee Wieking told me they had started delivering a little over a week before ("It feels like so long ago now!" she said), and it made customers "feel so appreciative, whether they need it or not. It gives them a sense of calm about coming into the store. And then also for those who really do need it, it's kind of a neighbor to neighbor gesture." Bookseller Camden Avery from The Booksmith also noted that free home delivery "to anyone who needs reading material" feels like a way to continue to connect with the community. While there can no longer be a sense of calm about a public gathering place, that sense of connection inherent in sharing a book is becoming more and more important.

Two weeks ago, event cancellations were just beginning. They rose to a flood on March 13 as limits on gatherings grew increasingly restrictive, primaries were postponed, and schools and stadiums closed. Today, most bookstores' events have been cancelled, creating a huge strain on both event managers and bank accounts. I spoke with Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage in California about the financial difficulty of cancelling their extensive event calendar. She said, "we feel that in the big picture of what is going on, our own part is small. And yet, it's our passion." She was buoyed by local authors whose events were cancelled offering to come in to personalize their pre-sales; one came in just to shop at the store telling her, "I'm here to help, and all local authors should be doing the same." "There's a real community feeling of 'let's do what we can,' " she said.

Saturday, March 14, seemed to be the day many people realized they would be home for a long while and emerged from their houses for a "stock-up" phase. (As we know, reading material is essential for an apocalypse.) All the stores I spoke with told me customers were buying eight or nine titles at a time in preparation. Many saw their sales numbers jump for at least a couple of days. East City Bookshop in Washington, D.C., had a "very busy morning" on Saturday said bookseller Cecilia Cackley. There was big demand for activity books, books to read together as a family, and series to keep middle grade readers occupied; "instead of buying just the first book in the series, parents are buying the first three or four or five books." Other stores noted an increase in workbook sales to keep kids up to speed while they're out of the classroom. Cackley said it was "gratifying to see people come in and tell us that they're making an effort to shop local and that they know we're struggling."

On March 13, the first bookstore in my city, Washington, D.C., closed "out of an abundance of caution." It seemed quite cautious at the time, but within a few days many had followed suit. A week later, almost every store I spoke with has closed for browsing, by choice or by law. March 16 was a turning point. Many cities' restaurants and bars were ordered to close for dine-in service, San Francisco was the first to begin sheltering in place, and even the president was able to find some gravity. Announcements flooded in that stores were closed for browsing "until the end of the month," "until further notice," "indefinitely," or "for who knows how long."

We're all still dealing with the uncertainty and rapidity and immediate what?! of everything (I've rewritten and updated this article countless times; still, I'm worried that by the time it comes out a day later it will be out of date.) But already bookstores' responses to the pandemic are expanding. We're offering private appointments for browsing, streaming storytimes, over-the-phone recommendations, and curbside or home delivery; we're industriously tackling long-ignored projects, writing stirring articles, and, of course, doing what we do best and coming up with great lists of books for those who want to escape, or immerse themselves in, the unfolding drama.

Bookstores have had to be adaptable in the past, and we will certainly have to be adaptable now. There's no denying the gravity of the situation; grants and government action will be necessary to keep many afloat. It will be equally necessary to come together as an industry, from authors to publishers to bookstores to the ABA. While apprehensive, I'm also curious to see what we do as a group of very creative businesses to find ways to get books to those who need them and to sustain our bookstores while our communities are home staying safe.

Powered by: Xtenit