Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 27, 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


Virtual Indie Bookstore Day: Reflection, Gratitude, Celebration

With Independent Bookstore Day postponed until August 29 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Saturday became instead the culmination of #VirtualBookstoreParty week, an alternative celebration featuring giveaways, contests, promotions, online author events and even--at Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif.--a haiku contest. Virtual IBD was also a day for reflection and gratitude in perilous times. Here's a sampling:

Legends Bookstore, Cody, Wyo.: "Normally, Indie Bookstore Day is held on the last Saturday in April (today).... This has grown to be a big day for us.... We can't thank our community enough for having our back during this crazy time. We will be coming up on our 5th year in business in July and would not have made it that far without all of you. We are stronger together."

Pages Bookshop, Detroit, Mich.: "Today is a hard one for us. For the last five years, today is a day we look forward to all year long.... It's the day we open our doors to tons of smiling faces coming to celebrate the magic of indie bookstores, which is to say: it's a day about community.... It's about all of us, together. So even if we can't gather, let's still make this day a celebration."

The Bookshop, East Nashville, Tenn.: "We miss you all extra today and wish we were celebrating together--but look forward to the day this nook is safely back open. Until then, thank you, thank you, thank you for the Bookshop and bundle orders. So grateful for this community."

Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington, Conn.: "It's weird not having a packed store and a big party today, but we are still finding ways to celebrate! This morning we came in and graffitied our windows with messages of love and joy for you, our amazing customers. When you do curbside pick-up, take a moment to read these notes and remember: we love you, and we can't wait to open our doors to you again. Stay safe, be well, and read some great books."

Wheatberry Books, Chillicothe, Ohio: "I wanted to pause today and thank all of our customers for your continued support. I celebrate each and every one of you every day, whether I am fulfilling online orders at the bookstore or filling prescriptions at the pharmacy. Today I happen to be doing both! Your physical health and your mental and emotional health are important to me, and I truly believe in the healing power of books. Stay well and keep reading! I can't wait to see you in the bookshop soon--Chelsea."

Pagination Bookshop, Springfield, Mo.: "Today is #independentbookstoreday AND our first year anniversary! Wow, did we have a different idea as to how this day would go! {I still plan on cake!}.... We can't wait until we can all gather together again in the shop, among friends, surrounded by stories."

Reads & Company, Phoenixville, Pa.: "We hope you'll celebrate indies today and every day, by shopping with us online and cheering us on thru social media. And get ready: August 29 will be one hell of a party!"

Point Reyes Books, Point Reyes Station, Calif.: "Celebrations have been postponed... but in many ways we feel more grateful than ever for your incredible support. Thank you! We're celebrating today among these 2020 bookstore essentials: packing tape, postage scale, hand sanitizer, and piles of books to be mailed. We cannot wait to see you again!"

Barrington Books, Barrington, R.I.: "We are still celebrating what it means to be an independent bookstore--steeped in our community and supported by truly awesome folks--our customers, friends and neighbors. While we won't have in-store readings, live music or balloons (ok, so we may still have balloons) we do have some virtual fun planned for you! So join the party!"

Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, Minn.: "This year is... different. Our doors are locked, the store is quiet and the official party has been moved to late August. However, we still want to celebrate.... Thank you for supporting us during this ordeal. Every order ensures we can come together to celebrate readers, books and community on the official IBD in August."

Viewpoint Books, Columbus, Ind.: "It certainly wasn't the Independent Bookstore Week we had envisioned, but we are so happy to hear from and see so many of you virtually this week.... We plan to celebrate IBW together again in August, hopefully in person. Until then, stay safe, stay well, and keep reading."

For the #VirtualBookstoreParty, gave away two free audiobooks, On Cats by Charles Bukowski and Wanderlust, USA by Flula Borg, and reactivated its ShopBookstoresNow offer (two audio titles for the price of one with a new membership, with the $14.99 paid by the customer going to the bookstore of their choice) that has raised nearly $100,000 for bookstores. On Saturday, had a 105% increase in new monthly memberships compared to IBD 2019. has also sold more than 3,000 pairs of socks, raising more than $22,000 for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), through its #SocksForBinc campaign.

"More than ever, book lovers are showing their support for their local bookstores and #VirtualBookstoreParty was a great opportunity to do so last week," said Stephanie Ballien, director of marketing at

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

International Update: Booksellers Criticize Amazon Gift; German Bookstores Re-open


Following the announcement last week that a £250,000 (about $322,560) anonymous contribution to the Book Trade Charity fund to help booksellers hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic had been made by Amazon, the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland criticized the move, according to the Bookseller.

BA managing director Meryl Halls said: "The BA and our independent booksellers are taken aback by the revelation that the recent large donation is from the company held responsible by the majority of booksellers for the long-term demise of high street bookselling, and booksellers' responses have been first stunned silence as they process the dissonance of the situation, followed quickly by a real sense of anger at the discordance at the heart of the gesture.

"There is a definite sense that this seems like an ill-judged attempt to mitigate a decades-long campaign to undermine the bookselling sector at the moment when we are facing the biggest existential threat we have ever faced."

Halls added: "A common reaction amongst booksellers has been--'if Amazon really wants to support independent bookshops, then let them join bookshops in paying its fair share of tax.' "


German bookstores, which began reopening last week, are quickly adopting new practices, some of which are unheard of in bookselling, as recounted by Börsenblatt. Depending on what states they're in, booksellers must wear masks, and stores need to install plastic shields at cash registers before opening. Many customers have to wait to be let in--stores surveyed were allowed as few as two and as many as six customers in their stores at a time. Still, many booksellers reported a lot of traffic and business, "almost like the holiday season," because people are reading more--and stockpiling books--and doing less of other leisure activities. As Elke Zenner, a bookseller at Eselsohr children's and YA bookstore in Frankfurt, said, "People want to browse and discover." And Doris Müller-Höreth of Pelzner Bookstore in Nuremberg said that business has been good (if harder earned than usual): while many people feel solidarity with independent bookstores, she explained, there's also "a great need for reading. People want to read, read, read."

The limitations on allowing customers in has created some unusual tensions. Kim Otto of the Tolksdorf Bookstore in Hofheim am Taunus said that the store has always promoted browsing, but if the handful of customers allowed inside at a time are browsing leisurely--and perhaps not finding much--while others are waiting impatiently outside--something they're not used to--it takes some intuition to judge whether to speak with the customers inside.

At the Otto Melchers Bookstore in Bremen, owner Irene Nehen makes a point of checking regularly with people waiting outside because some of them want only to pick up a book already ordered.

Kim Otto noted happily that the store has acquired new customers. "Some say, 'Things work much better in your store than with Amazon, so I'm coming to your store.' "

Many booksellers said they found it difficult to work all day wearing face masks, since breathing so long through them isn't easy, and worry what it will be like when temperatures rise in the summer.

Booksellers reported that some children are unsettled by store staff wearing masks, but that if their parents and caregivers wear them, children are more understanding--and want to wear them. Size can be a problem, so Eselsohr children's and YA bookstore in Frankfurt offers masks specially handsewn for children--its first delivery was sold out by the end of last week.


In South Africa, the Mail & Guardian explored "how a pandemic took the book industry online," noting that as the country is under lockdown and books are not considered essential, physical book retailers, warehouses and distribution centers will remain closed. Book releases have also been postponed and print runs have been put on hold.

Kate Rogan of Love Books, Johannesburg, said that in the four days before the lockdown began, the shop experienced a surge in book sales due to stockpiling patrons: "Thank heavens, it has seen us through April.... I am getting daily e-mails asking if we can deliver... so we're working on our online sales ability." Unfortunately, courier services are barred from delivering goods that are not considered essential.

Griffin Shea of downtown Johannesburg's Bridge Books said that in addition "to being sustained by the pre-lockdown sales, the bookstore has also encouraged its customers to continue buying books with the promise that they will be delivered as soon as the lockdown ends. The bookstore is offering 50% off for its Learn isiZulu (over Whatsapp) series, as well as its Underground Booksellers tour which will take place once the lockdown ends."


"Unlike other businesses that have shut their doors," Diomedes Libros in Montevideo, Uruguay "is one of the more than 100 soup kitchens that have sprung up all over the Uruguayan capital to offer food to the most vulnerable, along with a special treat--a book," AFP News reported.


"In these challenging times we have to be creative in every possible way!" the American Book Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, posted on Facebook. "Our Reinoud converted his 'Dog-Rufus-Mobile' into a delivery bike for bringing books all around Amsterdam. The result: Books are brought to your doorstep, fast and green! (And our Reinoud gets his workout and a healthy tan)."

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: Online Sales; Following CDC Guidelines


Santa Cruz staffers

In Santa Cruz, Calif., Bookshop Santa Cruz has been closed since March 16. In the weeks since, reported store owner Casey Coonerty Protti, a skeleton crew has come into the store daily to fulfill web orders and curbside pickup while the store's marketing and business office teams are working from home. Protti and her team have been able to make up more than 50% of what normal sales would have been, but sales seem to be slowing as the shelter-in-place order continues.

Protti said she was able to keep everyone on staff for the first two weeks of the stay-at-home order. After that, she had to furlough half of her staff, adding that she and her management team "checked in with each employee to ensure that their situation wasn't going to lead to them losing their rentals or homes."

The staffers still at the store, Protti continued, have been working "so incredibly hard." Bookshop Santa Cruz had to pivot to being a "socially distant web order fulfillment company" overnight and had "more than Christmas levels of sales" when the shelter-in-place order began. Said Protti: "They were amazing and continue to be."

Protti applied for the PPP loan through the store's bank and got approved last week. The application and approval process were "very smooth," and Protti said she thought it helped that she already had a relationship with her local bank.

She and her team received the funds toward the end of last week and put everyone back on payroll by the weekend. Staff members can choose whether they'd prefer to work at the store fulfilling web orders and curbside pickup, or work from home on a variety of projects.

The store has co-hosted several successful virtual events with local authors, and the bookstore is now launching other online events, such as book group mixers featuring authors and booksellers, as well as a books and brews partnership with an author and local brewery.

When asked about any silver linings amid the ongoing crisis, Protti said she and her team had always dreamed of seeing the store's web sales skyrocket, and this has given them the opportunity to figure out how to handle those things better. The staff has been "incredibly dedicated and flexible and creative," and the outpouring of community support has been an inpsiration. The store has raised more than $12,000 to buy books for kids who don't have access to them during the shutdown.

"But mainly," said Protti, "nobody in the Bookshop family has gotten sick, and that is the whole ballgame."


Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, with stores in in southern Florida and the Cayman Islands, told boca magazine that Americans "have to be reading more than they were, because it's another option for them, and they have much more time and solitude. Our online sales, which are the only sales we have, have grown tremendously over this period of time."

He noted that the bookstore's customers "understand the importance of a local independent bookstore. Sometimes you don't know what you've got til it's gone. The fact that they can't go to their bookstore is a big loss for so many people. The sense of community that a bookstore creates is a very important thing."

Despite the spike in online sales, Kaplan said he is only generating 5%-10% of his typical revenue, and has had to furlough 80 employees. He is trying to imagine what the stores will look like "after the new normal kicks in. Retail is getting hurt as hard or worse than anything else.... It's a very difficult nut to crack. I'm very confident that Books & Books will survive this, but it'll be a rough, rough, rough period." Books & Books' cafes may reopen for takeout "soon," he noted.


In a letter to customers, Vickie Crafton, owner of Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, S.C., wrote: "As we enter week five of the Covid-19 store closure at Litchfield Books, we are all grateful that none of us here have experienced this deadly virus as cases and deaths continue to rise in South Carolina.

"Our Governor announced small retail businesses such as bookstores could reopen as of Tuesday April 21st. Litchfield Books has chosen to follow the CDC guidelines hoping to keep our customers and ourselves safe, thus we will not open the store for browsing at this time. However, we will open the store Monday April 27th for curbside delivery.... We will continue our online ordering as well, that way any out of town customers can continue to shop with us....

"Managing a closed storefront is far more challenging than operating one that is open. Your continual support and understanding during this time is so appreciated. Everyone at Litchfield Books looks forward to opening our front door and welcoming you back in to browse when it is safe."

A Toast to Bookshop's Million-Dollar Milestone


Congratulations to, which today will pass a major milestone: its pool of money representing the total of affiliate earnings and the 10% of regular sales that is evenly divided and distributed to independent bookstores every six months will reach $1 million. (As of press time, the total was $996,637.32.)

A group of bookstores plan a virtual toast to Bookshop on Zoom this evening at 8 p.m. Eastern. For log-in information, contact Debbie at the Story House: Bookstore on Wheels via e-mail.

Kids' Next List E-Newsletter Delivered

Last Thursday, the second 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 523,846 customers of 149 participating bookstores.

The e-newsletter, powered by Shelf Awareness, features spring 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 Rebecca Stead, author of The List of Things That Will Not Change (Wendy Lamb Books).

For a sample of the newsletter, see this one from Pass Christian Books, Pass Christian, Miss.


Birthday Serenade

Happy Birthday, Emma Straub! Booksellers (plus a few kids and dogs) from stores across the country--Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.; Changing Hands, Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz.; Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.; Warwick's, La Jolla, Calif.; White Whale Bookstore, Pittsburgh, Pa.; East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.; The Ivy Bookshop, Baltimore, Md.; Word Bookstores, Brooklyn, N.Y, and Jersey City, N.J.; and Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn.--joined together Saturday to serenade Straub, author and co-owner of Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y.. Her new novel, All Adults Here, is coming May 4 from Riverhead.

People Supporting Indies: Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza

Indie booksellers have learned quickly over the past few weeks to reinvent their mode of doing business on the fly, sometimes daily. Fortunately, people have responded with purchases and, in some cases, heartfelt notes of appreciation and support.

Kathleen Carey, children's book manager/buyer at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y., told us that the store began started doing curbside pickup business about three weeks ago, six days a week, four hours per day. "I do two days a week and our general manager does the other four," she noted. "He asked this couple who were looking for recommendations for their young grandchildren if they could call back the next day when I would be there. They were the first call I received at 10:01 this Saturday past. It was a long call, but they were very happy and thankful, as you can see from below. Apparently, there is an online forum called Next Door and they posted this review on it and someone forwarded it to the store. I thought you would appreciate, as John Krasinski says--Some Good News!"

The customer's review: "If you are reader and want great booksellers like the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza, who provide not just a great book selection but invaluable services to our community, to survive, I urge you to consider buying your book(s) there instead of saving a relatively small sum by buying books online. We wanted to get books for our grandchildren (4 yo and 18 mos) who live near Boston. I called the Book House for suggestions. The woman who answered (Kathleen) is both knowledgeable and patient. She spent about 20 minutes with my wife and me on the phone, asking and answering questions, and going back and forth from the phone to the shelves to see what was in stock, etc. Kathleen could not have more pleasant and helpful. She took my credit card and had the childrens books we selected (and, after asking about our reading preferences, a couple of interesting looking free adult reading books for us) waiting in a clear bag. I called when I arrived at the store about an hour later and Kathleen left the books outside near the door for me. In sum, it was a perfect book buying experience that one could not replicate on Amazon."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jung H. Pak on CBS This Morning

CBS This Morning: Jung H. Pak, author of Becoming Kim Jong Un: A Former CIA Officer's Insights into North Korea's Enigmatic Young Dictator (Ballantine Books, $28, 9781984819727).

Also on CBS This Morning: Vivek H. Murthy, author of Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World (Harper Wave, $29.99, 978-0062913296).

CBS This Morning: John Grisham, author of Camino Winds (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385545938).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Stephen King, author of If It Bleeds (Scribner, $30, 9781982137977).

Movies: The Saint

Chris Pine "is in negotiations" to star in Paramount Pictures' remake of The Saint, directed by Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman) and based on the 1920s novel series by Leslie Charteris, Deadline reported. Seth Grahame-Smith is writing the most recent script draft. Previous incarnations of The Saint include a radio show, a 1960s Roger Moore TV series and a 1997 movie directed by Phillip Noyce and starring Val Kilmer.

Books & Authors

Awards: Sarton Women's Book Winners

The Story Circle Network has announced the winners of its 2019 Sarton Women's Book Awards, named in honor of May Sarton and given annually to women writing chiefly about women in memoir, biography, and fiction published in the U.S. and Canada by small/independent publishers, university presses, and author-publishers. Winners, who get a cash award, and finalists receive a package of benefits available throughout 2020. Winners and finalists can be viewed here.

"Honoring outstanding women authors and their independently published books is a special privilege for SCN," said Jeanne Guy, the Story Circle Network's president. "Indie publishing requires courage, commitment, and a passionate belief in the importance of story. It allows writers to partner with others to write, design, produce, and market their books outside of the traditional routes. We are proud of our winners, who have met many challenges on their way to publication."

Book Review

Review: Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here

Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinan (Bloomsbury, $27 hardcover, 336p., 9781635574432, May 19, 2020)

Set against the true events of Memorial Day weekend 2015 in central Texas, Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here explores empathy, history, local lore, fantastical happenings and simple humanity. Amid catastrophic flooding, Nancy Wayson Dinan's protagonist offers a compelling balance between the weird and the ordinary. Eighteen-year-old Boyd has always been unusually perceptive. Her best friend Isaac is the only one who never asked anything of her, in the unspoken way that people do. "Hurt children trailed Boyd... the forked stick of a dowser... tuned not to water, but to pain."

It's the fourth year of the drought, the beginning of summer, and Isaac is camped on the edge of the lake below Boyd's house, panning for gold: "You can pay a semester of tuition at UT with a tiny sack of that gold dust." After the first night's rain, landscapes are rearranged, people scattered, and the rain still falls. Boyd can feel Isaac lost somewhere, "the copper fear in his mouth... the shivering of his chilled limbs." Bridges out and all roads blocked, she sets out cross-country, on foot. "She had no doubt she could find Isaac; she was drawn to him like a magnetic pole, reading his distress like a Geiger counter."

So begins a chain of events and searches: Isaac in mortal danger; Boyd following instinct alone into uncharted territories; her neighbor Carla, a retired hippie recluse from Austin, following her own instincts after Boyd. Boyd's mother, Lucy Maud, accompanied by a motley crew of aging family members and Boyd's father. Isaac's father, also missing, gone treasure-hunting just as the rains began.

Dinan's narrative shifts among these quests: Carla slipping through the mud in her yoga slides. Lucy Maud, alternately drawn to her estranged husband and annoyed by his ineptness. Isaac in one predicament after another. And Boyd, whose unlikely understanding has expanded until she must navigate both time and space, lost children and Texas history, wandering through the same sodden world where she looks for Isaac.

Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here is fabulous and engrossing, both faithful to the real-world details of central Texas and wildly imaginative, peopled with treasure hunters, prehistoric beasts, distracted professors and one improbable young woman facing a momentous decision. Dinan's storytelling flows as forcefully as a flash flood in this spellbinding first novel in which a handsome young man, refreshingly, awaits rescue by a powerful woman. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Forces of nature and preternatural human empathy come together in an extraordinary novel about relationships, love and place.

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