Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 26, 2020


Scribner Book Company:  Bear Necessity by James Gould-Bourn

Del Rey Books: Malorie: A Bird Box Novel by Josh Malerman

Norton: New Reads for the Summer!

Roaring Brook Press: Kind of a Big Deal by Shannon Hale

HP Piazza: Regain Control of Your Publishing Content - Register Now

Minotaur Books: A Brotherhood Betrayed: The Man Behind the Rise and Fall of Murder, Inc. by Michael Cannell

News

Encouraging Numbers in a Difficult Time

Some cool numbers in a difficult time:

In 10 days, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) has raised more than $700,000 to help booksellers and bookstores in financial need. Demand is high for Binc's services: in five days it received more requests for help from booksellers than it did in all of 2019.

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In 10 days, Libro.fm reached--and passed--its goal of raising $50,000 for independent bookstores with #ShopBookstoresNow. The digital audiobook services has also seen:

  • 800% increase in website traffic since the campaign launched
  • 200% increase in memberships
  • More audiobook listening than in the history of the company

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Sales at IndieCommerce and IndieLite websites rose 1,350% this past Monday, March 23, compared to the same day a year ago, Bookselling This Week reported. A big jump came after Ann Patchett, owner of Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., promoted indie online channel on PBS NewsHour that evening.

In addition, in the past week there was a 120% increase in customers visiting IndieCommerce and IndieLite websites, and the number of IndieCommerce and IndieLite customers now making purchases online has increased by 436% during the same period.

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Bookshop.org's sales have risen so much in the past few weeks that it has raised some $115,000 for the pool that is distributed to indie booksellers (separate from commissions earned by affiliate bookstores).


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 05.25.20


How Bookstores Are Coping: Intensive Adaptability Skills

High on the list of seemingly endless challenges indie booksellers now face in the age of coronavirus is the ever-shifting boundaries regarding how they conduct business and their ability to adapt quickly.

Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich., which launched a $100,000 gofundme campaign Monday in the face of "a perilous situation," met its goal in just two days. 

"We are speechless and so, so, so grateful from the bottom of our hearts," owners Hilary Lowe and Mike Gustafson posted on Facebook. "This has been the most emotional process of our professional lives. To know that you all have our back is empowering and brings us to tears. This money will be used right now to keep people employed, pay our liabilities, and help enable us to move forward. It gives us breathing room. I want to be clear that Hilary and I are not seeing a dime of any of this. This is all to pay our liabilities now and going forward: Rent, bills, payroll....

"Words are not enough. Thank yous are not enough. In the past seven years I hope we have proven ourselves with action to be committed, passionate, hard-working. We will continue to prove this. We will build, re-build, and re-invent this bookstore all over again. This is a difficult time for everyone, and we have appreciated all the kind comments and contributions. And we couldn't be more grateful."

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Yesterday, Print: A Bookstore, Portland, Maine, posted an Operations Update on Facebook that reflected its own ongoing need for intensive adaptability skills:

"Hi, all. As our response to COVID-19 continues to evolve, we've implemented a few changes based on recommendations from state and local officials, staff discussion, and new mandates from the city of Portland and the state of Maine. We are still shipping out books, with free shipping on domestic orders over $20. As of today, we have ended both the curbside pickup and local delivery options for orders. If you'd placed an order for pickup or delivery that has not yet arrived, we will ship it free of charge. Whenever possible, work is being done remotely. We're all working hard to figure out how best to engage with you at this time, including using *all* of our social media platforms. Expect more use of video, as well as lots of photos and book recommendations.

"For the time being, we've scaled back in-store staff to just the owners, Josh and Emily. As directed by the city, we're performing only essential business functions, including receiving and shipping out orders. While in the store, we are maintaining proper social distancing and cleaning procedures as directed by the state and federal CDC.... But, yes, you can (and should!) still order from us!... Our sincere thanks again for your continued support. Please be safe, take care of yourselves and each other, and reach out if you have any questions or concerns. We are apart now so we can be together (and even better!) soon."

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More than a dozen independent bookstores throughout Washington State have signed an open letter to Governor Jay Inslee asking that they be included as essential critical infrastructure in the stay-at-home order Inslee issued this week.

"Time is of the essence and we ask this approval be granted immediately," the letter reads. "The past week many of us have closed our doors to the public to eliminate browsing in our bookstores. We've continued fulfilling orders for home delivery, mail, or pick up outside the front door. The communities we serve are hungry and asking for books at this very moment. We must stay open, behind the scenes, for book fulfillment. We are passionate about continuing to do our part in helping during the crisis."

Janis Segress, co-owner and manager of Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, spear-headed the writing of the letter, and said she also plans to get it to Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. She added that she and her team are currently processing a "frenzy of orders" to fill before the store closes tonight. From tomorrow on, unless the exemption is made, she and other Washington indies will have to shift to fulfulling web orders through Ingram.

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Kelly Estep, co-owner of Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky., told WDRB that the events of the past few weeks have been too surreal for words, but the store isn't going anywhere. "We're on the same roller coaster of emotion that the rest of the country and now really the rest of the world is on," she said. "Last weekend, we decided that we would expand our delivery from our typical zip code areas to the rest of the city."

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Earlier this week, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a stay-at-home order under which only essential businesses are allowed to ask employees to come in to work. Jessilynn Norcross, co-owner of McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mich., reported that there is an exception allowing those who are necessary to conduct a business's minimum basic operations to come into work. In other words, while Norcross's team is all working from home, the storefront is not completely off-limits and she does have access to the in-store inventory.

Norcross added that her booksellers all have specific roles they're now doing from home: processing receiving batches, direct-to-home orders, working on the store's social media, etc. She said her staff members have been amazing, and they've been so proactive that she hasn't had to give any directives. So while it has not been a good experience overall, she continued, "that part of it has been wonderful."

Prior to the stay-at-home order, McLean & Eakin was already offering 99-cent shipping on orders, which it is continuing to do. However, many of the orders now are full of games, puzzles and workbooks, which do not qualify for media mail shipping. Instead of "bothering" customers with that aspect, the store is doing 99-cent shipping on any order of $50 or more. They have so many puzzles, games and workbooks coming in, Norcross added, that they're building new webpages just for those categories.


GLOW: Bloomsbury Publishing: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke


Abrams's Binc Fundraising Challenge; Warehouse News

Abrams is launching #HELPABOOKSELLER, a fundraising challenge to benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), with the aiming of raising more than $100,000 to help booksellers whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting that many booksellers "have been laid off with inadequate severance to sustain them through the duration of this crisis, and many without extended health-care benefits," Abrams said that its goal and Binc's "primary goal at this time is to get funds to those booksellers in order to support them in their struggles to pay rent and care for themselves." Contributions can be made here.

Abrams president and CEO Michael Jacobs said, "As a company, we've been focused and committed to taking care of one another during this extraordinary time. We realized that what we possess at Abrams is a will and a drive to make a difference. So, we decided to raise funds to help booksellers in a way that brought our larger, interconnected book community together around this goal. Abrams' corporate donation to Binc will comprise at least half of the $100,000, and we are encouraging our authors, vendors, partners, and our own staff to help fulfill our publishing mission and join us in raising this amount or more for the people that we rely on so greatly--the frontline booksellers."

Among the authors, illustrators and artists who have already joined the campaign at Abrams are children's authors Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Henry Winkler (Alien Superstar) and Andrea Beaty (the Questioneers series including Rosie Revere, Engineer), and adult authors Gaby Dalkin (What's Gaby Cooking: Eat What You Want) and Laura Prepon (You & I, as Mothers).

Kinney, who is also owner of An Unlikely Story bookstore, Plainville, Mass., commented: "As brick-and-mortar stores shutter to slow the spread of the virus, booksellers are suffering in a very real way. The term 'nonessential business' is part of our vernacular now, but this crisis has caused us to reflect on just how essential bookstores, and their knowledgeable staffs, are to the community. We need to ensure that booksellers can make ends meet during this uncertain and difficult time. I'm proud to work with my publisher, Abrams, in this effort."

Binc executive director Pamela French said, "This has been the most extraordinary week in the history of the Foundation. The requests for assistance are coming in every hour, and the need is like nothing we have ever seen. What gives us hope is the equally extraordinary response we have seen from our book-loving community. Publishers like Abrams have answered the concerns and fears of booksellers with the strongest possible message of support and solidarity. Through their incredible donation, they are saying, We believe in the importance of booksellers and we believe in the power of this community."

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis and by order of the state of Indiana, the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt distribution center in Indianapolis, Ind., has closed, effective yesterday, and will remain closed until April 7. During this period, no staff will be on site and the company will be unable to accept returns. HMH advises customers to hold returns, if possible.

Orders placed but not yet routed will be held until shipping resumes on April 7. If customers wish to cancel an order, they should contact customer service and their sales representative.

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All Media Supply (AMS), the U.S. sister company of Gardners, the U.K.'s largest wholesaler, and Gardners itself remain open and have put in place extensive measures to safeguard staff while continuing to maintain existing levels of service.

AMS provides provide a full range of new and backlist British books through its Florida warehouse.

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Although the Westminster John Knox Press and Flyaway Books office is closed, staff is working from home and the warehouse in Louisville, Ky., is operating, using split shifts and alternate day shifts to make sure proper health measures can be taken place.

Because of "the challenges booksellers are facing," both Flyaway Books and WJK Press are offering independent booksellers an additional discount and extended payment terms through April 30. Effective immediately, orders of 5+ units will receive a 53% discount and 90-day billing, along with free freight.

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Microcosm Publishing & Distribution has a skeleton crew shipping daily as normal, the company reported. The wholesale arm is fully stocked and is shipping orders within 24 hours. Microcosm is also going to net-90 terms for independent bookstores who place orders for its published titles and sidelines before April 30 directly from it or via partners Book Travelers West, Fujii, and Como. The company is also offering a Community Support display pack loaded with its most popular titles for mental health and staying occupied.

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Note: Yesterday, National Book Network assured us that all was "business as usual." Since then, however, we heard from several staff members and one client publisher that most of the staff has been furloughed--not our definition of business as usual.


Virtual Author Tours and Online Events

With many bookstores around the country closed to foot traffic and all manner of events canceled, authors, publishers and booksellers are getting creative with a variety of live-streamed, online events. Below is just a few of the many virtual events going on in the book world:

David Quammen and Betsy Gaines Quammen

Betsy Gaines Quammen's tour for her new book, American Zion: Clive Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, she and her husband, David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, are participating in a "virtual book tour," during which they will livestream a series of conversations on disease outbreaks and the dangers of misinformation.

The series will begin today, March 25, with a Facebook Live event hosted by the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont., where the physical book tour was supposed to begin. Other stops on the virtual tour will include Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 31, and Rediscovered Books in Boise, Idaho, on April 4.

At the same time, Torrey House Press, Betsy Gaines Quammen's publisher, has launched an online series featuring posts by THP authors called That Thing with Feathers: Hope and Literature in a Time of Pandemic.

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Authors Jenna Blum (Those Who Save Us) and Caroline Leavitt (Pictures of You) have teamed up to create A Mighty Blaze, a social media initiative and resource for those in the book world impacted by the pandemic, from authors who have had their tours canceled to independent bookstores that have had to temporarily close.

Every Tuesday until June 2, A Mighty Blaze will feature posts about new books, written by the authors. It will also be a repository of information about things like virtual book festivals and online events, and every week there will be posts highlighting a specific indie bookstore.

Blum and Leavitt have so far partnered with the Authors Guild, Poets & Writers, Lit Hub and other literary organizations. Interested parties can contact Blum and Leavitt here.

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Prior to the outbreak, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had a 20-city tour planned for Chosen Ones, the first novel written for an adult audience by Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent franchise. Set to publish the book on April 7, HMH is now working on a series of virtual events that would put Roth in conversation with authors like Leigh Bardugo, Charlie Jane Anders and Seanen McGuire. Each virtual event will benefit the bookstore that was supposed to host the original on-site event, and HMH is looking to work with those stores to co-promote and produce the virtual events. Roth is signing finished books and/or bookplates for all attendees, and is encouraging her followers to support indie bookstores on her social media.

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Erin Rivera, owner of the Frugal Frigate in Redlands, Calif., told the Redlands Daily Facts that her first virtual storytime session, which she live-streamed on Facebook on March 18, has since been viewed by thousands.

"It was important to me to continue offering storytime to the community in these trying times of being at home so much with schools closed," Rivera said. "I think it's important for stories to be told and children to be encouraged to read. It helps them learn and grow, see things that may be outside of their experience, and also see themselves in stories to know that they're not alone."

Rivera plans to continue doing her regular Wednesday and Saturday morning storytimes via livestream, as well as the store's monthly PJ storytime this Friday at 7 p.m.

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Although East End Books Ptown in Provincetown, Mass., is temporarily closed, it's still holding a book event this Friday. At 5 p.m. Eastern time, author Paul Lisicky will read from his new memoir Later: My Life at the Edge of the World before answering questions, all via Facebook Live. The event is free, though East End Books is asking customers to RSVP for their virtual seat, and signed books are available for purchase in advance of the event.

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Zane Carson Carruth, author of the children's books The World's First Tooth Fairy... Ever and The Adventures of Abella and Her Magic Wand, is launching a YouTube video series aimed at children and their families. The video series will feature live readings, audience q&as and appearances from special guests, and will be posted on Carruth's YouTube channel.

"I am thrilled to bring my books to life on YouTube," said Carruth. "With more and more parents and guardians looking into new ways to educate their children at home, I thought it was the perfect time to showcase my books in that realm."


BookExpo, Unbound and BookCon: 'The Shows Will Go On'

BookExpo, Unbound and BookCon will be held July 22-26 and have "many customers and partners, including the ABA, who are grateful and supportive of the decision to forge ahead with new dates later this summer," said event director Jenny Martin.

"As Reed, of course we will make the next right decision to keep our customers safe," she continued. "But, if we all stay together, we can help the industry bounce back from this. How we do that and what that looks like is still unknown. We can figure it out and we are stronger together. These are the types of conversations we continue to have with our customers, including those that have made difficult decisions in the past few days."

Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins plan not to attend, and this week FEMA began setting up a temporary hospital in the Javits Center. Martin commented: "Some are concerned about the Javits being used as a medical surge facility. I want to assure everyone that we are working closely with the Javits Center to ensure the health and safety of our customers. I think it is noble what they are doing, opening their doors to overflow patients so that those who are infected with COVID-19 will have focused care in the city's hospitals. We are all doing the best we can during these times, and what that means for BookExpo is to work hard to provide the place that gives our customers the tools to bounce back from this."


Kids' Next List E-Newsletter Delivered

Last Thursday, the first part of the American Booksellers Association's Spring 2020 Kids' Next List was delivered to more than half a million of the country's best book readers, going to 515,387 customers of 146 participating bookstores.

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

For a sample of the newsletter, see this one from the Hartfield Book Company, Monticello, Ill.


Notes

Coronavirus-fighting Ideas: Handwritten Notes, Book Bingo

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.

A closer look at what's in stock was offered by Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt., which noted: "Our videos of puzzles and activity books have been very popular and helpful for virtual browsing," along with "a video of games from the Children's Room and journals. What other products would you like a visual of to help you shop?

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"During these times of social distancing it may feel really good to see a loved one you cannot be with right now a nice handwritten note," suggested Run for Cover Bookstore, San Diego, Calif. "We have some gorgeous boxed notes from Earth Sky +Water. Include them with your next book order.... Thank you and stay home and healthy."

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One More Page, Falls Church, Va., expressed gratitude "to everyone who has been ordering online and over the phone! We have been busy all week adjusting to this new temporary reality and reconfiguring the store space to most efficiently fill all your orders. We are adjusting our home delivery option (see below) and will continue to offer curbside pickup and shipping. We also received confirmation that we can sell wine for pick up, so, yeah!

While we've been making all of these changes, we've also been busy coming up with some fun ways to stay connected, while also distancing. If you are on Facebook , you will have already seen some of our quick video updates--even featuring camera-shy Eileen and also our State of OMP Union address. We will be rolling out more online fun via video conferencing tools. Stay tuned for virtual book clubs, author chats/readings and more.... We held our inaugural Friday State of the OMP Union Facebook Live last week, and we are going to do those every Friday at 4:30pm. Have your bookish questions ready and tune in! We miss you!"

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Virtual LitKnit in Salt Lake City, Utah: "Join Catherine and the crafters of Weller Book Works on Zoom for a virtual #LitKnit! We'll remotely share 40 minutes of casual bookish conversation & snacking.... All crafts and crafters are welcome. BYOB."

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Irish bookseller Dubray Books offered a treat for young readers: "Why don't you play @DubrayBooks Book Bingo at home. How many of the boxes can you fill in with names of books that you’ve read?"

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Paying it forward with ARCS. Penguin Bookshop, Sewickley, Pa., wrote: "In our efforts to get creative to help our store and give back to the community, we are giving away some advance reader copies (ARCs) in boxes outside and asking those who take one to pay it forward by shopping with us on-line. We have also enclosed a special bookmark in each ARC that we hope you will bring back to the store when we re-open to celebrate and receive a special gift! (Trying to look forward). Also, let us know if you know of anyone home bound who could use our help with a book delivery. Stay healthy. Keep reading."


Personnel Changes at Workman Publishing

Gabrielle Greco has joined Workman Publishing as digital sales manager for all imprints and will handle the management of e-book channels and assist with the Amazon account. Greco was formerly account manager with the independent bookstore sales team at Simon & Schuster, where she began in the digital group as global digital sales coordinator.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Margaret Atwood on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Today:
Fresh Air remembers playwright Terence McNally, who died Tuesday from complications of COVOID-19.

Tomorrow:

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Margaret Atwood, author of The Testaments (Nan A. Talese, $28.95, 9780385543781).


This Weekend on Book TV: Politics & Prose's Bradley Graham

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

Saturday, March 28
1 p.m. An interview with Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., on the impacts of coronavirus. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:45 p.m.)

1:15 p.m. Richard Frank, author of Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War, Volume I: July 1937-May 1942 (Norton, $40, 9781324002109). (Re-airs Monday at 6 a.m.)

7:45 p.m. Robert C. Plumb, author of The Better Angels: Five Women Who Changed Civil War America (Potomac Books, $32.95, 9781640122239), at Politics & Prose. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

8:30 p.m. Rebecca Solnit, author of Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir (Viking, $26, 9780593083338), at Murmrr & Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Re-airs Sunday at 5 p.m.)

10 p.m. Eilene Zimmerman, author of Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy (Random House, $27, 9780525511007). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. A look at books about the Trump administration. (Re-airs Sunday at 6:30 p.m.)

Sunday, March 29
8 p.m. LeeAnna Keith, author of When It Was Grand: The Radical Republican History of the Civil War (Hill and Wang, $30, 9780809080311).

11 p.m. Serena Zabin, author of The Boston Massacre: A Family History (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544911154).


Books & Authors

Awards: Whiting, Four Quartets Winners

The 10 winners of the 35th annual Whiting Awards, recognizing "excellence and promise in a spectrum of emerging talent, giving most winners their first chance to devote themselves full-time to their own writing, or to take bold new risks in their work," are:

Fiction: Ling Ma, Genevieve Sly Crane, Andrea Lawlor
Nonfiction: Jaquira Díaz, Jia Tolentino
Poetry: Aria Aber Poetry, Diannely Antigua, Jake Skeets, Genya Turovskaya
Drama: Will Arbery

For more information about the awards and winners, each of whom received $50,000, click here.

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The poem "Toxics Release Inventory (Essay on Man)" from Brian Teare's collection Doomstead Days (Nightboat Books) has won the $21,000 Four Quartets Prize, sponsored by the T.S. Eliot Foundation and the Poetry Society of America.

The judges commented: "With his walking-activated line and stanza breaks and his mix of personal experience, documentary materials, and political implication, Brian Teare writes one of our times' most affecting poems on environmental crises and ethical responsibility, focusing in 'Toxics Release Inventory (Essay on Man)' on the city of Philadelphia and his own corporeal implication in systemic and deadly pollution. In this bravura unfurling of reticulated haikus, Teare undertakes a mode of geophysical positioning via lyric reckoning, sounding out the permeability, vulnerability, and intimacy of bodies in specifically distressed environs. Teare is a virtuoso of sensuous and intellectual registration, of the luminous and telling detail, from the 'timothy inflorescing,/ fringing the sidewalk' to a broken condom to coyotes yipping up a city street. Aerated yet also intensely wrought, this is a work of ambulatory notation and philosophical reflection. Teare offers both a brilliant inventorying and a fiercely alert sauntering, openhearted and intermittently devastated, charting a path toward a great democracy of attentiveness and a committed, disabused persistence. This allusive, wide-ranging sequence from his ambitious Doomstead Days moves and dazzles us in its acrobatic beauty on the page, confirming Teare as a clear-sighted, profoundly inventive ecopoetic heir to Rachel Carson and Thoreau, an American flaneur 'married to the world/alive with the feel/ of mortal knowledge.' "



Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, March 31:

More Myself: A Journey by Alicia Keys (Flatiron, $29.99, 9781250153296) is the memoir of the musician.

It's Not All Downhill From Here: A Novel by Terry McMillan (Ballantine, $28, 9781984823748) follows a 68-year-old woman determined to age with grace.

Relentless Pursuit: My Fight for the Victims of Jeffrey Epstein by Bradley J. Edwards and Brittany Henderson (Gallery Books, $28, 9781982148133) is written by a lawyer who represented 20 of Jeffrey Epstein's victims.

Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre (Scribner, $28, 9781982105310) explores West Virginia's glut of pain pills and resulting opioid crisis.

Mitch, Please!: How Mitch McConnell Sold Out Kentucky (and America, Too) by Matt Jones and Chris Tomlin (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781982142049) gives reasons why Kentucky should vote Senator McConnell out of office.

Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife by Bart D. Ehrman (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501136733) searches for the origin of the concepts of heaven and hell.

Valentine: A Novel by Elizabeth Wetmore (Harper, $26.99, 9780062913265) takes place in 1970s Texas, where a girl gets attacked in a small oil town.

The Weather's Bet by Ed Young (Philomel Books, $18.99, 9780525513827) is a retelling of Aesop's "The Wind and the Sun."

Imagine Me by Tahereh Mafi (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780062676429) is the final book in the Shatter Me series.

Paperback:
You Can't F*ck Up Your Kids: A Judgment-Free Guide to Stress-Free Parenting by Lindsay Powers (Atria, $16.99, 9781982110130).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Hardcover
Separation Anxiety: A Novel by Laura Zigman (Ecco, $26.99, 9780062909077). "Told with humor, wit, and wisdom, Laura Zigman's novel explores the unexpected trials of middle age. We follow Judy Vogel, who is rebounding from the recent deaths of her parents, struggling with writer's block, juggling financial issues, coping with a failing marriage, and raising an adolescent son. When she comes across her son's old baby sling, she starts to wear the family dog as a unique form of support. This thought-provoking novel is full of heart, hope, and the strength to move forward." --Maxwell Gregory, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, Ill.

This Town Sleeps: A Novel by Dennis E. Staples (Counterpoint, $26, 9781640092846). "This Town Sleeps, set on an Ojibwe reservation in northern Minnesota, is not an elegiac or idyllic work but rather a direct, unblinking, poetic novel that draws the reader inexorably into the gray areas of the hearts of those in this story. A queer coming-of-age story bound up in a town mystery, this tale of Marion Lafournier, a young gay Ojibwe man, is a compelling debut. Dennis E. Staples is an author whose voice and storytelling will be appreciated in so many ways for years to come." --Christine Havens, BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

Paperback
Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams (Berkley, $16, 9781984806116). "Steamy, spicy, and tender, if this book were a gourmet meal it would be worth a thousand bucks for sure. Lyssa Kay Adams has outdone herself; her sophomore novel in the Bromance Book Club collection is even better than her debut. Liv is a firecracker, taking nothing from nobody. Mack is a big softie with a heart of gold. When they team up to take down a famous and powerful chef with a history of abusing women, there is nothing these two won't risk--including their hearts. Please read this lovely romance; you will not regret it and it will make you a better person. And if you are a man, this should be required reading--study up, dudes." --Sam Butler, Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, Ariz.

For Ages 4 to 8
No More Naps!: A Story for When You're Wide-Awake and Definitely NOT Tired by Chris Grabenstein, illus. by Leo Espinosa (Random House, $17.99, 9781524771287). "Being the mother of a toddler who often protests naptime, I laughed out loud when I saw No More Naps! A delightful premise (others taking the naps that Annalise won't take) and a satisfying ending (spoiler alert: there are zzzzzz's) make this a great read-aloud for story time or as a preamble to a good, long snooze (fingers crossed)." --Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga.

For Ages 9 to 12
Coo by Kaela Noel (Greenwillow, $16.99, 9780062955975) "Coo is a brilliant, fresh take on animal fantasy. Among the many things that make this book marvelous, the pigeons have their own set grammar, which greatly appealed to me as a linguistics nerd. The book also takes a stab at answering some pretty big questions, such as what it's like to experience your own humanity for the first time. With echoes of Julie of the Wolves and Silverwing, this book has moments of human (and pigeon) connection that will sweep you off your feet." --Laura Speake, Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H.

For Teen Readers
Havenfall by Sara Holland (Bloomsbury, $18.99, 9781547603794). "Once again, Holland weaves a heady blend of magic and mayhem into words. Havenfall, an inn hidden in the mountains of our mortal world, acts as a gateway and protector to magical realms. When a door that was closed long ago suddenly cracks open, monsters begin roaming the tunnels and grounds of the inn, threatening the hard-won peace of Havenfall. Monsters aren't the only thing on the loose, as secrets and hidden agendas slowly permeate the one place Maddie always thought was the safest in the world. A wonderfully diverse and exciting start to a new series!" --Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Vagabonds

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, trans. by Ken Liu (Saga Press, $28.99 hardcover, 608p., 9781534422087, April 14, 2020)

Hugo Award-winner Hao Jingfang's Vagabonds is a science fiction epic that doubles as a work of philosophy--a novel filled with big ideas about art, competing cultures and so much more. Vagabonds was translated by Ken Liu (The Hidden Girl), an accomplished science fiction author responsible for the translation of Cixin Liu's wildly successful The Three-Body Problem, among others. Hao's novel is a welcome addition to a wave of exciting Chinese science fiction being made available in English. Vagabonds takes place at the beginning of the 23rd century, on a colonized Mars that broke away from Earth many years earlier, after a destructive war.

In an attempt to thaw relations between Mars and Earth, a delegation of young Martians was sent to live on Earth for five years. Vagabonds begins with their return to Mars, many of them unmoored by their experiences in a very different culture. Luoying returns unsure of her place in either world, disturbed by assertions on Earth that her grandfather, the consul of Mars, is a dictator. Meanwhile, Eko, a documentarian from Earth, finds in Mars a utopia of artistic expression, unconstrained by the demands of capitalism. As Eko attempts to follow the footsteps of his old teacher, and Luoying learns more about her deceased parents, the author unfolds revelations and complicates each of their perceptions of Mars.

Hao's greatest achievement is her incredibly intricate rendering of life on Mars, including both its practical realities and its philosophical underpinnings. The Martian colony is an aesthetically striking glass city. On the surface, at least, life on Mars is purposeful, orderly and rigid in comparison to Earth's more chaotic societies. It is easy to start to draw parallels between socialist Mars versus capitalist Earth and competing present-day nations. Hao seems to warn readers away from a simplistic reading, however, writing that Eko "was so steeped in the context of Earth that it was natural for him to fall into the assumptions and political symbolisms prevalent on Earth... there was nothing more dangerous than jumping to conclusions."

Vagabonds is sometimes reminiscent of old-school sci-fi in its reliance on dialogue. Much of the book is made up of lengthy conversations between characters arguing about Mars and what constitutes a healthy society. Hao thankfully avoids the all-too-common habit of making one character her obvious mouthpiece; instead, it's often unclear who is right and who is wrong. Even Luoying's grandfather, the alleged dictator, is treated sympathetically and given a fully coherent ideology. In Vagabonds, the conflict between Earth and Mars is no more important than the conflict between the novel's characters as they struggle to chart a course for their future. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Shelf Talker: Vagabonds is a science fiction epic that uses a cold war between Earth and colonized Mars in the 23rd century as a stage for philosophical debate.


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