Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 21, 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


Ingram Launches, Book Discovery Website

Ingram Content Group has created, a consumer-facing website to help booklovers choose the next "great read" and make the "discovery process both fun and easy and in the process, aiming to expand book discoverability, bolster book sales and get more great books in the hands of readers."

Bookfinity users begin by taking a quiz about their interests, hobbies and lifestyle preferences that establishes their "reader type," which leads to customized book recommendations. The nearly 20 reader types include: the subject matter expert, beach reader, trendsetter, woke up like this, young at heart, cool mom/dad, spiritual seeker, lifelong learner, world traveler, game day hero, mountain climber, dissenter and time traveler.

Using propriety technology and metadata, Bookfinity then generates "personalized title recommendations" that readers can rate on a "like it or lose it" scale that further customizes their book list. "Unlike other online tools that make recommendations based on genres, the Bookfinity technology goes much deeper--providing insightful recommendations that cut across genres and styles based on a reader's overall personality, interests and reading behavior," Ingram said.

When a user wants to purchase a book, buy buttons go to Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Apple Books or Target.

Brian McKinley, Ingram v-p of marketing, commented: "Our mission is to connect readers around the world with books they'll love. Bookfinity is our latest effort in that quest. During this unprecedented time, it has become difficult for readers to pop into their favorite, local bookstore, or library. We hope Bookfinity gives readers an outlet to discover more titles and order online from their favorite retailer to support them in this challenging time."

Kim Schutte, Ingram director of consumer marketing, added: "Ingram has always been at the forefront of helping the book industry use technology to drive book sales. We're excited about the newest frontier in that mission--putting technology to work for consumers. Bookfinity will not only help readers discover their next great read, but also help the industry get more books into the hands of readers."

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

Naughty Dog Books to Open in Nashville, Ind.

Naughty Dog Books, located in in the Heritage Mall on Van Buren St. in Nashville, Ind., "will celebrate a grand opening as soon as possible, but for now, the store has a Facebook page," the Brown County Democrat reported.

Mother and daughter team Tarin Paradise and Shelby Roth had long talked about "one day" opening a cozy book shop. "For as long as I could remember, she was taking me to book sales with a book bag," Roth said.

A Memorial Day grand opening has been scheduled, but is subject to change due to the Covid-19 crisis. "We're ready to open whenever the state and everyone gives us the all clear," Roth noted.

In addition to being book lovers, they also share a love for dogs, inspiring the name of the shop, which will feature a broad collection of genres, including popular fiction, bestsellers, nonfiction, mystery, faith and family, memoirs and more, along with bookish gifts like T-shirts, candles and mugs.

The co-owners were a bit worried about opening at such an uncertain time, but believe they are filling a need. Roth told the Brown County Democrat that they "are putting their creative juices together and look forward to opening their doors to their community and sharing their love of literature locals and tourists alike."

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: 'A George Bailey Moment'; 'Where's Waldo But Better'

In Decatur, Ga., Little Shop of Stories is closed to customers. Owner Diane Capriola and her team are taking phone and online orders, as well as providing local delivery and curbside pickup. Capriola reported that the store's phones are ringing "off the hook" when they open at 10 a.m., and many of her customers are looking for personalized recommendations for their children and themselves. The store is now also streaming storytime sessions on Facebook Live four times per week.

Capriola said she has "an amazing team of passionate and smart booksellers," who have all stepped up during the crisis. She noted that her team is especially tight, and things have been so frantic and busy that they haven't been able to connect as they normally would during the course of a workday. To make up for it, Capriola is baking them a lot of cookies.

When asked about the PPP and any other relief programs, Capriola said she's applied for pretty much everything available to her. She added that the PPP application process was easier and more streamlined than she had imagined it would be, but she is concerned that it may not be enough. She and her team launched a GoFundMe campaign recently, raising nearly $40,000 of its $150,000 goal, and as she looks beyond May, she is feeling especially nervous. The cancellation of her spring book fairs, author events and school visits caused an "unrecoverable loss of revenue" and the store's summer camp program is in jeopardy.

In addition to the storytime sessions on Facebook Live, Little Shop of Stories has started an Instragram Live program called Give Me QuaranTEN, which is a series of fun, fast-paced interviews with authors and illustrators. She also hopes to coordinate with publishers and local schools to provide virutal author visits to students stuck at home.

On a positive note, Capriola said it feels like the store is having "a bit of a George Bailey moment." The communty support has been heartwarming and encouraging, and all of the authors and illustrators streaming content on social media for children at home makes her "really, really, really happy." She said she was grateful to work in an industry that is "so dedicated to caring for children and teens, in good times and in bad."


According to store owner Vicki Burger, Wind City Books in Casper, Wyo., is under a stay-at-home request, and she and her team have full access to the store. She makes sure to keep fewer than 10 people in the store at a time, which she noted is not difficult because it's not the holiday shopping season. The store is offering local delivery, curbside pickup and direct-to-home ordering. Her staff are all working their usual number of days, although the store has cut daily hours from 10-6 to 10-4. 

Burger reported that she has applied for the PPP and received it, saying that it was very easy as she worked through the store's bank. She and her team have not been doing any online or virtual events. She added that the silver lining in all of this has been the community's understanding of the impact the crisis is having on the business, and their desire to support the store through it all.


The Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass., reached its $60,000 GoFundMe goal, and last Friday owner Joan Grenier told the Republican she had spent the day paying bills.

"I know I wouldn't have made it without this," she said. "The numbers just were not going to work. I know it's still going to be difficult....  We are in much better shape than we were. But here it is April 17 and we know there will be more bills."

Reopening the store depends upon state regulations and on the coronavirus. "It's a whole new world. We are all trying to figure out the future. Will people feel like they have disposable income?" said Grenier, who has brought back about half of her staff and now has six people working, including three dedicated to filling online orders, as well as arranging online author events, including video presentations from local authors.

Odyssey normally serves students and visitors to nearby Mount Holyoke College, but the campus is closed and commencement has been canceled, the Republican noted, adding that "the students accepted for the fall won't be visiting campus, and shopping, over this spring. Instead Grenier anticipates being open in June and July when business is historically a little slow."


"It's like Where's Waldo, but better!" Viewpoint Books, Columbus, Ind., noted. "Every day when the boxes and boxes of books arrive, we pile them in the back room, where our hardworking owner Beth receives them all, wiping them down. And then we play Where's Beth! Can you find her?"


Posted on Facebook by Zenith Bookstore, Duluth, Minn.: "The store might look quiet on the outside, but inside we are bustling with activity as we fill orders, answer phone calls and build mystery boxes! Books and reading are essential, and we are so grateful for your support!"

Benjamin Rybeck New GM at House of Books in Conn.

Bookseller Benjamin Rybeck, formerly of Brazos Bookstore in Houston, Tex., and the Center for Fiction Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., has become the general manager at House of Books in Kent, Conn. 

The bookstore, which first opened in the 1970s and was purchased by a new ownership group last summer, currently resides in a smaller, temporary space while its larger, original home is being renovated. Once the renovations are done and House of Books can move back in, the bookstore will have about 2,000 square feet of selling space, along with an area for events and a gallery on the second floor.

Currently, the bookstore's inventory is all new books, and a small selection of sidelines like greeting cards, journals and writing implements. Rybeck added that once the move is complete, he plans to expand the store's inventory of both books and non-book items, and he's already done some buying in preparation for that.

"The original plan was to be in the renovated space this summer," said Rybeck, who officially took over as general manager on April 1. "Of course, it's very difficult to know whether or not that will happen now."

Ben Rybeck
(photo: Corby Kelly)

While some aspects of the renovation work have been affected by the pandemic, Rybeck said, others can continue. He's still doing some design work, such as thinking about the layout and how the store will flow. There is also a great deal of digital work to be done. In addition to redesigning the House of Books website, all of the store's digital assets are being redone, including the newsletter. Prior to the pandemic, Rybeck explained, those were things that he would have liked to do anyway but were not so pressing. Now, though, they are immediate priorities.

"It's especially important to fast track them, now that we're in the situation we're in," Rybeck continued. "There's a lot of building to do. I would have much rather been doing this building when there wasn't an emergency happening and when there was a physical store open, but we've still got a lot of work to do."

Until just recently, House of Books did not have much of a webstore. That became an immediate necessity when the bookstore partnered with art critic Jerry Saltz for a "socially-distanced book signing." When a customer orders a copy of his book How to Be an Artist, Rybeck and the House of Books team ship sanitized copies to Saltz, who signs and personalizes the books while wearing gloves before sending the books back. From there, books are shipped from the safety of the team's homes. So far, House of Books has sold nearly 1,000 copies of the book.

Once the webstore was up and running, Rybeck added, he felt compelled to fast track the site redesign. He said: "One thing has just been leading to another."

Despite becoming the new general manager only recently, Rybeck has been involved with House of Books since the new owners were planning to take over. He was put in touch with the ownership group by a mutual friend from his time at Brazos, and began working with them on a consulting basis. He helped with the ownership transition and started doing frontlist buying for the store.

"The deeper I got into it, the more I had trouble walking away," said Rybeck. "I feel like this is less of a new thing than a continuation of my efforts."

Looking ahead, Rybeck said he feels optimistic about the future of bookselling, despite the large toll the pandemic has had on the industry.

"I think it will survive. Bookstores are well-positioned ultimately to rebound from crisis. We've done it before," he said. "People truly love our spaces and, when all of this is said and done, people will still need to find connection. During this, people still need to find connection." --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Bob Loomis

Bob Loomis, who spent most of his long career as an editor at Random House, died on Sunday, April 19. He was 93.

In a letter to staff, Gina Centrello, president & publisher of Random House, called Loomis "one of the greatest editors Random House, and our industry, has ever known." He had retired in 2011, at age 85, and began his career at Random House in 1957, "in the days of our founders, Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer," Centrello wrote. "Bob edited Maya Angelou (every one of her more than 30 books), William Styron, Edmund Morris, Robert Massie, Shelby Foote, Calvin Trillin, and hundreds of others whose literary careers he guided, assisting them in the creation of many works that have been and will be read for decades....

"I was just one of many who adored and learned from Bob, who inspired several generations of editors and publishers. His values and work ethic are permanently embedded in the Random House DNA."

The New York Times called Loomis "an editor who bloodlessly transformed embryonic manuscripts by a pantheon of 20th-century American authors into award-winning and best-selling books....

"He was so solicitous that, at first blush, an author might be lured into believing that his manuscript, gingerly sprinkled with rhetorical questions, was virtually complete--only to be invited to a rigorous line-by-line copy-editing tutorial at Mr. Loomis's desk, or a broader conversation over two double Jack Daniels's at lunch."

The Times quoted Loomis as likening editing to a quasi-religious function: "You have to turn your collar around like a priest," he said. "You offer a lot of praise, you have confession and you have faith, and pretty soon they might trust you enough to know that you're not trying to make the book in your own image. It's their book."


Image of the Day: Watermark Books & Cafe Window Art

Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan., shared a photo of the bookshop's new window art, noting: "Lauren Messamore designed the window message. We were, sadly, removing our event promotional window displays and wanted to put something in each window to connect with people. So Lauren designed messages for four windows. The other three are about our services."

Coronavirus-fighting Ideas: Zoom Backgrounds, Puzzle Exchange


Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif., is offering Zoom Backgrounds. "If you're like us you're missing the creaky floors and book filled walls of Green Apple so we are providing these high resolution photos by photographer Chloe Jackman as a thank you gift to all those stuck at home in Zoom meetings," Green Apple noted. "If you feel so inclined please consider leaving a donation. We know there are many worthy causes, right now especially. If you donate, you're placing your trust in Green Apple, and we are honored and grateful. Thank you, as always, for your support."


The Bookworm, Omaha, Neb., is hosting a Quarantine Puzzle Exchange, benefiting the Food Bank for the Heartland. Noting that the demand for jigsaw puzzles has skyrocketed since isolation began, the bookseller is asking for donations of "gently used" jigsaw puzzles to establish the pool.           

"We've noticed it too; our puzzle shelves sit vacant and our distributors aren't sure when the next order will show up in-store," the Bookworm wrote. "We know that many of our customers are itching for a new puzzle, and we thought a great way to engage with the community and keep puzzle-doers satisfied would be to host a Quarantine Puzzle Exchange.... We will allow one week to establish puzzle donation, at which point we'll open puzzle pick-up on Sunday, April 26."


Window scanning. Spark Books, Aspinwall, Pa., shared a photo of its QR-coded window display: "While out for walk today, do a little window shopping! Games, workbooks, activity books, art supplies, craft kits, puzzles and more up on our website! (link in bio) And more coming!" Thanks @covertocoverchildrensbooks for this amazing idea!"


Speaking of Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, the bookseller in Columbus, Ohio, noted: "Children's book author, illustrator and friend Daniel C. Kirk created these great posters thanking healthcare professionals, our front line saviors. Daniel was recently released from the hospital after a life threatening, brutally painful battle with COVID-19. We posted these near stop lights, bus stops and parking areas near Columbus hospitals where healthcare professionals might see them. He also created Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Russian versions. We printed a stack of these and put them in a box outside the front door the store. You are welcome to take and post too!"


"We are having so much fun creating these care packages for medical staff and their families!" Charm City Books, Baltimore, Md., noted. "We hope the gifts will bring comfort to employees during this difficult time and give them a boost of joy. Our first batch is packed and we will deliver this weekend! Thank you everyone for showing love! Here's a few examples of goodies inside the bags!"


"Essentially, it's a free book or free coffee," Roebling Point Books & Coffee, Covington, Ky., noted in showcasing its Staying Home Just Got Delicious promotion. "That's what a friend told me when I ran this idea by him. We want to try this because we have these beautiful rooms of remarkable books... and no one can come in to see them. We need to find a way to get these books into the hands of our friends.... So please, check it out. Who doesn't like books and coffee? We do. In fact, we love books and coffee. We think you do too. This is our way to help everyone, stay healthy, happy, well-read, and perfectly caffeinated (including RoPoBoCo). Because what else are friends for?"

Chalkboard: Buffalo Street Books

"Stay in. Curl up. Read Books." Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, N.Y., shared a photo of its chalkboard message on Facebook, noting: "Orders ready for pickup! Our one woman team is working as fast as possible to fulfill your orders. We are so appreciative of your overwhelming support! Please be patient as we continue to get our new systems up & fully functional, but know we are doing our best to get you your books. Thank you so much! P.S. Scott could not have known just how appropriate this #chalkboard would be for the long haul!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jennifer Finney Boylan on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs (Celadon, $26.99, 9781250261878).

Movies: The Booksellers

The Booksellers, the documentary film that explores the world of antiquarian booksellers in New York City and "takes viewers inside their small but fascinating world, populated by an assortment of obsessives, intellects, eccentrics and dreamers," has launched as part of Greenwich Entertainment's Virtual Cinema initiative. Deadline reported that Greenwich is partnering with "movie theaters that are closed due to the pandemic. Patrons can support their local theaters and purchase tickets for the virtual cinema initiative."

Directed by D.W. Young and executive produced by Parker Posey, the film explores the annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory as well as the Strand and Argosy bookstores. It features commentators like Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean and Gay Talese, along with book dealers and collectors.

Books & Authors

Awards: Colby Winner; RSL Ondaatje Shortlist

Adam Higginbotham has won the 2020 William E. Colby Award for Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster (Simon & Schuster). Presented by Norwich University, the award honors "a first solo work of fiction or nonfiction that has made a major contribution to the understanding of military history, intelligence operations, or international affairs."

Carlo D'Este, Colby Symposium co-founder, said: "Adam Higginbotham's superb account of the deadly 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl for the first time reveals the full story of the terror, the tragedy and the cover up of this earth shaking event. In the field of investigative journalism, Midnight in Chernobyl stands out as a masterpiece of great writing."

Higginbotham will receive a $5,000 honorarium from the Pritzker Military Foundation, on behalf of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. The award and honorarium will be presented at Norwich University during the Norwich University Military Writers' Symposium, October 7-8, in Northfield, Vt.

Finalists for the 2020 Colby Award included American Cipher: One Soldier's Nightmare in the Afghanistan War by Matt Farwell and Michael Ames (Penguin Press) and Scholars of Mayhem: My Father's Secret War in Nazi-Occupied France by Daniel C. Guiet and Timothy K. Smith (Penguin Press).


Finalists have been named for the £10,000 (about $12,900) Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, honoring "a book of the highest literary merit--fiction, nonfiction or poetry--which best evokes the spirit of a place." The winner will be announced on May 4. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Surge by Jay Bernard           
Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi
Underland by Robert Macfarlane
A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak        
A Small Silence by Jumoke Verissimo         

Book Review

Review: Members Only

Members Only by Sameer Pandya (Mariner, $15.99 paperback, 368p., 9780358379928, July 7, 2020)

Members Only, the first novel by Sameer Pandya (author of the story collection The Blind Writer), is as provocative as it is comedic. In a horribly misguided attempt to bond with the first people of color since his own admission into a suburban Los Angeles tennis club, Raj's well-intended but inexcusable use of a slur sets off what will clearly be the worst week of his life. As a Bombay-born Indian American, Raj was the lone member of color at the Tennis Club: "simple nouns elevated to proper status," he glibly observes, shortened to TC for the anointed. His own welcome was indirect--because he's his white wife's brown spouse. Raj currently serves on the membership committee, vetting prospective new couples. He's especially thrilled to meet Bill and Valerie Brown--an African American power couple sponsored by the (white) Blacks. Their appearance inspires "big, friendly grins," until Bill's modesty about his Stanford tennis days elicits Raj's utterly inappropriate response.

Yet as dire as Raj's faux pas is, none of his co-members are willing to acknowledge the ongoing racist incidents Raj regularly faces. Just minutes before the Browns' entrance, for example, another prospective couple had repeatedly called Raj "Kumar." When his corrections are twice disregarded, Raj silenced his "incensed" retorts, still "hoping that, given time, I could be part of this club without losing some vital part of myself and my dignity." No member noticed the microaggression. At least, none came to his defense. But all are ready with condemnations when he slips.

From the courts to the classroom, Raj's university teaching career next takes a downturn when a student films parts of Raj's cultural anthropology lecture about the West and Christianity and the clip--misrepresented and out of context--lands on a conservative website. The consequences snowball quickly: students officially complain, demands are made, attacks happen, there's even a hunger strike. Still, the challenges don't stop: Raj's minor foot procedure could turn fatal; his older son's artistic experiments could get him expelled. And no, that's not all.

Facing social, professional, personal implosion--all in one week--might seem impossibly overdramatic, but Members Only proves remarkably convincing. For people like Raj, a carefully constructed life--complete with an Ivy League Ph.D., a white wife and two children, elite memberships, connected friends--could all be reduced to virtually nothing with one small mistake. That said, don't expect all doom-and-gloom here: without ever eliding the gravity of serious social issues like racism, privilege and power, Pandya deftly manages to create a tragicomedy of errors driven by surprising wit, irreverent humor and razor-sharp insight. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Sameer Pandya's irreverent debut novel deftly exposes the dangerous absurd difficulty of being a brown immigrant even in elite, liberal California.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Shielding Gillian by Susan Stoker
2. Sleeping With a Stranger by Jessica Zimmerman
3. You Can Have Manhattan by P. Dangelico
4. The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson
5. That Boy by Jillian Dodd
6. The Star and the Shamrock by Jean Grainger
7. Master Your Emotions by Thibaut Meurisse
8. And Then You Loved Me by Inglath Cooper
9. Playboy Princes by Jaymin Eve and Tate James
10. One Moment Please by Amy Daws

[Many thanks to!]

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