Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 11, 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


Decision Time Update: Variations on Indie Reopenings

At Pomegranate Books, Wilmington, N.C.

As more states begin to alter or lift restrictions on retailers shuttered by the Covid-19 pandemic, indie booksellers face complicated decisions regarding when and how to reopen safely. Here's a sampling of their responses:

Madison Books, Seattle, Wash.: "In the interest of not burying the lede, a practice of which we're often guilty, as guilty as we are of casually tossing out obscure and orthographically suspect industry jargon in phrases such as burying the lede, and oh look, now we've gone off on a tangent and done exactly what we said we didn't want to do, so let's get on track and to the point: We're back! Well, we never really went away, but now you can see we're here."

Next Page Books, Cedar Rapids, Iowa: "Uh-oh, you may want to coax me off my soapbox. The governor declared retail businesses may reopen at 50% capacity effective Friday, May 8. Next Page Books will reopen once it appears safe and prudent to do so. The decision will be based on advice from health care professionals, not politicians."

Savoy Bookshop and Café, Westerly, R.I.: "While Rhode Island is beginning to roll back restrictions on businesses like ours, Savoy Bookshop & Cafe will not be reopening to the public this weekend. (We'll continue to operate on our current model.) We are actively working on a plan that is both safe and manageable for staff and customers."

At Novel Bay Booksellers

Novel Bay Booksellers, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.: "Masks, gloves all crucial if you want to make an appointment to visit the bookstore.... Limited to one person or family unit at a time and we schedule to disinfect surfaces between visits."

The Bookshop, East Nashville, Tenn.: "As y'all have likely heard by now, phase one of Nashville's reopening plan starts on Monday. We're a tiny shop; and, of course, the virus is still out there; and everyone's safety is definitely still at the tippy-top of our concerns. So, we will *not* be opening for browsing. We *do*, however, plan on beginning contactless customer pickup (for prepaid orders) at some point next week."

Quill Books & Beverage, Westbrook, Maine: "As Maine and other states start to reopen, we know that we're far from out of the woods and are preparing for a long road ahead. What is most important to us is the safety of our community. We are committed to reopening in a way that feels safe and on a timeline that feels safe, not just as soon as restrictions are lifted."

At Main Street Books, St. Charles, Mo.

Whistlestop Bookshop, Carlisle, Pa.: "The stay-at-home, life-sustaining-travel-only orders that Pennsylvania and Cumberland County have been operating under since April 1st have been extended to June 4, 2020. This means the stone-and-brick Whistlestop Bookshop is closed to pedestrian traffic."

The Country Bookseller, Wolfeboro, N.H.: "Admit it, you've always wanted to have the store all to yourself. Now is your chance! This Monday we will be re-opening the store to the public by appointment only."

Dee Gee's Gifts and Books, Morehead City, N.C.: "We are excited to open but ask that you follow the guidelines of social distancing, sanitizing your hands upon entry (automatic pump located on stair wall!!!) and wearing your mask. Forgot your mask? We have them and will kindly ask you to wear one! Let's all get through this safe and healthy, we are willing to do our part!"

Loganberry Books, Shaker Heights, Ohio: "We're pleased to announce that the red OPEN sign will be on and our front door will be open again as of Tuesday, May 12....We're taking this all a day at a time, keeping a close eye on scientific developments and guidance as they become available, and we'll keep adjusting as need be."

Riverstone Books, Pittsburgh, Pa.: "Hmmm, what's new with you? To be honest, we have been having a hard time finding exciting new ways to describe how to order online. And we've been having a little trouble keeping the days straight until Sunday each week when we're closed. But no more--we are opening our doors on May 18!!!"

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

Barnes & Noble: Evanston, Ill., Store Closed; Two Warehouse Employees Dead

The Barnes & Noble in downtown Evanston, Ill., has closed permanently. Paul Zalmezak, the city's economic development manager, told Evanston Now that with its lease expiring, B&N had considered revamping the space to create a smaller format store more in line with its new approach, but decided not to.

The site will be remodeled into new offices for Northwestern Medicine. Now the nearest B&N is in neighboring Skokie.

Zalmezak noted that Evanston has nine independent bookstores, which include Bookends & Beginnings, Amaranth Books, Booked and Becky and Me Toys.


Two longtime employees at the Barnes & Noble warehouse in Monroe Township, N.J., have died from Covid-19, which the company has confirmed, reported. The men, Felix Ramirez and Alberto Joyasaca, died on April 13 and May 4, respectively.

The deaths follow protests by some workers at the distribution center who have said they're worried about the coronavirus and want B&N to close the warehouse for two weeks for a deep cleaning and sanitizing.

On April 7, about 15 of the warehouse's 800 employees picketed outside the building, seeking more protection. At the time, nine employees were sick.

And on April 28, workers at the warehouse sent a petition signed by 200 of them to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy asking him to close the warehouse for two weeks for sanitization and allow workers to self-quarantine with pay.

B&N has said that it is taking a range of steps to protect workers, including closing the warehouse five times for a deep cleaning (including this past weekend), reducing the workforce, implementing social distancing, and distributing gloves, cloth masks and disinfectant wipes. The company also said it has had no positive cases since closing the warehouse for five days, through April 22, and that it is allowing workers to take time off if they are worried about getting sick and is checking employee temperatures before each shift.

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

Kinokuniya Opens in Abu Dhabi

Books Kinokuniya has opened a store in the center of Abu Dhabi, its second location in the Middle East.

With what the company calls "an inspired fusion between Japanese and Arabian design," the new Abu Dhabi store is on two floors in the Galleria Al Maryah Island and will include a café later in the year. The store stocks more than 150,000 books in Arabic and English and has a large children's department. It also offers a range of exclusive editions such as the Taschen Ferrari book--encased in the actual motor from a Ferrari--and extremely limited signed and numbered editions from Haruki Murakami and Margaret Atwood. In addition, the store stocks Japanese manga and associated collectable figurines and a broad selection of Japanese and international stationery.

Founded in 1927 in Tokyo, Kinokuniya has more than 80 bookstores worldwide, including 14 in the U.S. and a store in Dubai that opened in 2008.

Obituary Note: Marian Wood

Marian Wood, former v-p and publisher of Marian Wood Books, died earlier this month. Describing her in a tribute as a "brilliant and fiercely loyal editor," Putnam said Wood "had one of the most illustrious careers in publishing, measuring over half a century." After many years at Henry Holt, beginning in the early 1970s, she joined G.P. Putnam's Sons with her eponymous imprint in 1999, spending the rest of her career there until her retirement in 2018.

Wood "was a model of what an editor should be: a discoverer of talent, an astute and sensitive critic, and a ferocious advocate for her authors," Putnam wrote. "Even if you had not met Marian and experienced her wit and insight personally, it is likely that you know the names of the many authors she has worked with, and the critically and commercially acclaimed titles she edited."

In addition to being mystery author Sue Grafton's career-long editor, Wood published many notable novelists, including Penelope Fitzgerald, Hilary Mantel, John Nichols, Daniel Woodrell, John Lanchester, and Olga Grushin. She was also the editor of Sharon Kay Penman's historical works; many of Philip Kerr's thrillers and all of Karen Joy Fowler's fiction. Her nonfiction author list included T.H. Watkins's Righteous Pilgrim: The Life and Times of Harold L. Ickes, 1874–1952; Arthur Gelb's City Room and Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War, among others. Her award-winning poets included Cornelius Eady, Karl Kirchwey and Linda Bierds.

Kerr once wrote to her: "I know that the book will be all the better for having you on the case. This is what they mean by a Marian Wood Book. Long may they continue."

Although she spent the final years of her career working from her home on the North Fork of Long Island, Wood "was an essential part of the Putnam team, and her list of writers and titles leaves behind a proud legacy," Putnam said. "She will be missed."


Cool Idea of the Day: Indie Bookstore Zoom Backgrounds

Emily Louise Smith, an associate professor of literature at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is director of UNCW's Publishing Lab and publisher of Lookout Books and Ecotone magazine. As the Covid-19 pandemic moved classes online earlier this spring, she and her students looked into creative ways to make video conference classes more engaging and to protect student privacy.

Faculty and staff of the UNCW Publishing Lab using virtual backgrounds from Vroman's, Main Street Books, Books Are Magic and Brazos.

And so, the free indie bookstore-themed virtual background was born. They reached out to some beloved independent bookstores, which "graciously came through with these beautiful, inspiring (free!) backgrounds, available in high-resolution by clicking the thumbnail images below. Whether the next few weeks and months find you virtually attending or teaching classes, joining a book-club conversation, chatting with Grandma, or sitting through your hundredth Zoom meeting, we hope that these images will lift your spirits."

Smith said that at the first class meeting after posting the photos, nearly everyone used a bookstore background, "and it was kind of magic to see our Zoom grid covered in indie storefronts and shelves of books. It immediately offered a layer of privacy, of course, but also much-needed joy in the midst of a challenging and emotionally taxing semester for students and faculty. For other students, my hunch is that working on this project helped raise their awareness of and sensitivity to differences in living situations, and helped them better understand how essential bookstores are to the lifecycle of a book--not only to sales, discoverability, and promotion, but also to creating conversations and community. In one of our final classes, I remember someone saying, 'I'm definitely going to buy some books to support my local indie now!' "

Looking to the future, Smith would love to feature more stores and plans to continue updating the site. "I don't see us returning a world without video conferencing anytime soon," she noted. "At UNCW, for example, all summer courses (May-August) are taking place online, and I'm sure that at least some aspects of our teaching and publishing work will continue online into the fall semester. Not everyone we reached out to was able to participate initially, and several people wrote back to say that they didn't have photos readily available or that their stores have been taken over by boxes and shipping/receiving stations lately. As stores begin to reopen, we'd love to include more options for download, including more photos of kids sections for younger students. We have only one kids section on the site now, and we'd like to remedy that."

Indie bookstores interested in taking part in the project can e-mail

Happy 25th Birthday, Books to Be Red!

Congratulations to Books to Be Red, Ocracoke, N.C., which had to celebrate its 25th anniversary Sunday under temporary closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Owner Leslie Lanier posted on Facebook: "I thought this day would find me with a shop full of customers enjoying champagne and good eats. I thought wrong. It does however find me with two children that are doing very well, a husband that continues to work hard to help with my shop, and customers that have supported me from afar. I appreciate every one of you. Happy Mother's Day and if you can raise a glass to Books to Be Red. See all of you soon!"

Emma Straub on 'Saving Small Bookstores'

Emma Straub, author most recently of All Adults Here (Riverhead) and co-owner of Brooklyn's Books Are Magic, spoke with Parade about her book, summer reading recs, and the future of indie bookstores in the age of novel coronavirus. Among our favorite responses from the q&a:

And yet, there seems to be this new--or renewed--interest in reading and in escaping through stories right now. Are you experiencing that as an author and bookstore owner?
We've always had a really lively Internet presence from the very beginning at Books Are Magic. So the leap to finding and then just ordering books, as opposed to finding us and then coming into the store for events, has been pretty good. We've been so busy with online orders, and that is terrific. But I do feel so, so, so conscious of how many bookstores, how many precious, vital bookstores across the country, weren't set up to make this shift, and definitely weren't set up to make this shift as quickly as we have all had to adjust.

Do you see this energy as something that could help sort of shift the tides for indie bookstores longterm?
I do. I mean, I think that there's just one thing that needs to happen, and that is that people have to make the choice to order their books and buy their books from independent bookstores, or from Barnes & Noble, instead of ordering them from Amazon. If people made that one decision, it would change everything. If people could all decide that they would rather support companies who are trying really hard to support their employees--who treat their jobs at bookstores like a vocation--then the world would look different on the other side of this.

As a small business owner, what have you learned throughout all of this?
I live in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, which is the neighborhood where my bookstore is. And I'm friends with the people who own all the other bookstores in Brooklyn. But I'm also friends with people who own a lot of other kinds of businesses. And I just understand right now how my friends with jewelry stores or clothing stores or butcher shops or restaurants and bars, how all of their businesses have ceased to exist overnight and how important it is to support the businesses that you care about.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: David Chang on Tonight

Tonight Show: David Chang, co-author of Eat a Peach: A Memoir (Clarkson Potter, $28, 9781524759216).

Good Morning America: Danielle Bernstein, author of This is Not a Fashion Story: Taking Chances, Breaking Rules, and Being a Boss in the Big City (Vertel Publishing, $25.99, 9781641120173).

TV: The Baby-Sitters Club

Netflix has released a teaser trailer for The Baby-Sitters Club, based on Ann M. Martin's books "that touched multiple generations," Entertainment Weekly reported. The 10-episode streaming series, with Martin attached to produce, will premiere July 3. The cast includes Sophie Grace, Malia Baker, Momona Tamada, Shay Rudolph, Xochitl Gomez, Alicia Silverstone and Mark Feuerstein

"We've loved thinking about each of the characters and translating them into the present," said showrunner Rachel Shukert. "So much of it is about being a good citizen, being a responsible person, being a caretaker. And also just the positivity of being good friends to each other, good friends to the kids that they take care of. It's a really positive world and story in a way that felt like a remedy to certain things."

Executive producer and director Lucia Aniello added: "We're in this moment where it's really nice to see the stories of young women who are leaders in their community and their friendships with each other and their families are so important to them. Hopefully we'll set a really great example for a new generation, the way that the books did for ours."

Books & Authors

Awards: Jackson Poetry; Maine Literary

Ed Roberson has won the $70,000 2020 Jackson Poetry Prize, awarded annually by Poets & Writers to "an American poet of exceptional talent."

The judges commented: "This is an extraordinary time to be awarding this significant prize in poetry, a momentous time in our recent history, a time of panic, fear, uncertainty and inner turmoil, and devastating tragedy... [Roberson is] both scholar and jazz-like innovator... Roberson's poems work a way into your heart and consciousness, because he is a visionary of luminous detail, of histories, of what he has felt and lived and observed."


Finalists in 17 categories have been named for the 2020 Maine Literary Awards. Winners will be announced May 28 during an online awards ceremony.

Book Review

Review: I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears: Stories by Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 hardcover, 224p., 9780374102098, July 28, 2020)

Laura van den Berg (The Third Hotel) leads her characters into bizarre and life-changing situations--all the more powerful for their underlying emotional resonance--in her thrilling and uncanny collection of stories, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears.

The 11 stories all feature women protagonists who seem caught in the unrelenting machinations of patriarchy. But this collection isn't a feminist manifesto. Rather, it is an exploration of women confronting the strangeness and danger lurking in their own lives. In this way it compares favorably with Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties. But van den Berg is less a fabulist and more a gritty realist who just happens upon the inexplicable. In the title story, a woman stuck in a remote Italian village pretends to be her sister for a night, with devastating consequences. In "The Pitch," a woman confronts her husband about his troubled past, forcing an otherworldly reckoning.

The surreal permeates these stories in masterful fashion, as if each narrative, grounded in the real, slowly slips into the fantastical. The author admits this much in a sly, almost undetectable self-consciousness. "And this is the problem with translating experience into fiction, the way certain truths read like lies," the narrator says in "Last Night." In "Hill of Hell," the narrator explains "the way we are walled in by our secrets and the implacability of our judgments." When these walls come down, the experience for van den Berg's characters is both terrifying and liberating. When the world's expectations finally lay broken like a husk, each character emerges anew, shocked but utterly alive.

In one of the best stories, "Slumberland," a woman who has been photographing her Florida neighborhood at night discovers her neighbor has been crying for the pleasure of strangers on the phone; "dacryphilia," it's called. Like so many of van den Berg's stories, the plot twist provides an eerie but powerful form of human connection. In "Volcano House," a woman whose sister falls victim in a mass shooting forms a powerful emotional bond with her sister's grieving husband. In "Karolina," a woman discovers her former sister-in-law living homeless in Mexico City. They share a touching night together before the relationship once again falls into disarray.

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is not only a testament to the power of the short story, but to how, cumulatively, a collection can sustain an entire ethos and atmosphere. Van den Berg is a maestro of the form, and these stories shouldn't be missed. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Shelf Talker: In Laura Van den Berg's uncanny collection, women confront a bewildering world to both terrifying and cathartic effect.

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