Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, May 12, 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


How Bookstores Are Coping: Determining What's Most Important

Cynthia Compton, owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Ind., said she is taking a wait and see approach to opening her store again. While Indianapolis is scheduled to reopen after May 15 with retail at 50% capacity, her county allowed stores to reopen this week, but she and many other retailers have decided to stick with curbside service. Noting that a lot of her customers are grandparents and expectant mothers, Compton said her store will remain closed until at least May 24.

At that point, if the state progresses with the current reopening plan, she'll begin allowing a limited number of customers in the shop, with facemasks required. She's already installed a hand-sanitizing station at the entrance and everyone inside the store--patrons and staff--will have to wear a mask. Compton has installed a plexiglass screen at the register and she plans to offer masks for customers if they don't have their own.

For the last six weeks or so, Compton has been working at the store by herself, with her other staff member working from home. In the midst of trying to process orders for pick-up and local delivery, she's also been spreading out displays, eliminating certain fixtures and converting the store's event/party room into additional retail space. She's ordered new signage for each section and she is "waiting anxiously" for a new customer-facing credit card terminal. 

Regardless of when the store reopens for browsing, Compton and her team plan to offer curbside pickup and home delivery for the entire summer, and only have one staff member in store at a time. The store's summer reading program will be curbside this year, with families able to pick up their weekly prizes and turn in book reviews and art projects in a "drive through" format.

Compton said she is "frankly very anxious about opening," and added that she's already had customer requests, and some complaints, last week about not being open yet. Indiana is a politically conservative state, she continued, and with the stay-at-home recommendations becoming increasingly politicized, she worries that some potential customers will simply walk away from her store due to the fact that she will require facemasks.

"That's going to be something I will have to be okay with, as my staff's safety and the safety of my customers who are compliant is just more important," said Compton.


In Tampa, Fla., Oxford Exchange officially reopened for browsing last Wednesday. Oxford Exchange is both a restaurant and bookstore, and owner Laura Taylor reported that over the past seven or eight weeks, she and her team have been doing takeout food orders for the restaurant while doing online and phone orders for the bookstore.

The entire business is no longer taking cash, and the bookstore is operating on six-foot social-distancing guidelines. There are hand sanitizer stations, and Oxford Exchange is no longer offering paper receipts. Masks and gloves are not required in the bookstore, Taylor added, but they are required in the restaurant, which has reopened at 25% capacity.

Taylor has tried to bring as many of her staff back as possible, but because the store is no longer doing evening and weekend events and capacity is limited, there are fewer hours to offer. At the same time, if staff members feel unsafe or uncomfortable about the prospect of returning to work, they don't have to. Before reopening on Wednesday, she held an orientation session with her returning staff to go over the store's new policies and procedures, including cleaning and sanitizing routines and ways of minimizing contact during the checkout process.

So far, Taylor continued, there has not been a rush of customers coming back in to browse, which was something she was initially a little worried about. Instead, it's been "very moderate and slow," making it much easier to stick to distancing guidelines and keep everything clean. Oxford Exchange is still doing online sales and phone orders and those have remained consistent since Wednesday.

Looking ahead, Taylor said she has no plans to start doing in-person events again in the foreseeable future, and is going to focus on expanding online events.

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

International Update: U.K., French Booksellers Eye Reopening; German Booksellers' Wish List

The Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland has called for clarity regarding when bookshops will be allowed to reopen following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement Sunday that some stores could open again beginning June 1, the Bookseller reported.

The organization also cited a member survey showing that 45% of booksellers felt strongly that bookshops should be deemed essential and allowed to safely reopen versus 13% feeling strongly that they shouldn't. The survey also revealed that, while 76% of bookshops are open for business, operating stores are trading at just 20% of normal turnover levels, with 65% of stores expecting to reopen partially when they are able to, 30% fully, and 4% not at all.

The BA has launched a £50,000 (about $62,180) fund to help members prepare safely to reopen once lockdown restrictions are lifted. The Bookseller noted that the fund will be used to provide a £50 ($62) per member grant to purchase protective screens for till points, or other protective materials. It will also allow for the provision of a kit to all BA independent members that will include safe distance signage, floor vinyls, posters, shelf talkers and other in-store materials. The BA is currently reviewing protective screens, and will be circulating a list of suppliers to its members shortly. It is also working with Gardners on the provision of PPE equipment for bookshops, including disposable face masks and shielding face visors.

"Bookshops need to be in possession of clear guidance on safe reopening protocols," said BA managing director Meryl Halls. "Our bookshops need to know their staff and customers are going to be safe and responsibly cared for in the new era. The mood of our membership tells us that they are keen for bookshops to be deemed essential, though they need to be able to trade safely. We will be working to support them every step of the way.

"There is a lot of concern amongst booksellers as to how best to prepare for the practical realities of reopening bookshops once lockdown restrictions are lifted. Above all, the consensus among members has been the safety of staff is paramount. We hope that this fund will ease some of that anxiety for our members, helping them to ready their businesses so that they, their staff and customers can return to bookshops safely and with confidence."


Blackwells CEO David Prescott told the Bookseller he welcomes Johnson's announcement, but cautioned that the reopening of branches was likely to be phased: "We've been planning the reopening of our shops for some weeks now and the likelihood that the reopening program is likely to be staggered with flagships in, say, Oxford and Edinburgh, as well as a large number of university-based campus shops. The June 1 date is a helpful marker, but hopefully we'll get much more detail when further guidance is published today."

A spokesperson for Waterstones said: "We are well prepared to open our shops as soon as we are permitted to do so. We will do so cautiously, with extensive measures in place to ensure the safety of both our booksellers and our customers."


French bookseller Olivier Michel, owner of l'Humeur Vagabonde, celebrated the shop's 25th anniversary April 1 with the doors shuttered, but now, as "he prepares to reopen on May 11 after seven weeks of enforced government lockdown, he is not sure if his business in northern Paris is well equipped to survive the new normal," the Financial Times reported.

"The lockdown was the easy bit...  but after, as we restart everything, what will happen?" he asked. "All the help will end and we will enter into a great unknown and we don't know how long that will last."

Michel, who owns two bookshops--one for children--facing each other on Rue du Poteau, "has spent days preparing... Despite these efforts, he remains anxious that new social distancing rules--only six customers will be allowed in his larger store and four in the children's bookshop--will damage the experience of browsing that is at the heart of his business," the FT noted.

"People don't come to bookshops with a list all ready to buy, they come to browse, that's the pleasure," he said. "So what happens if now people can't stay two hours? If they don't buy books and there is a queue outside, it's going to be really difficult for a business like ours."


In a "new normal," an overwhelming majority (92%) of German booksellers would like to see discounts equalized between chains and indies, fewer titles published (70%), higher taxes on online businesses (62%), and an increase in payment dating (65%), according to a Buchreport survey of more than 540 booksellers April 27-29, immediately after many German bookstores were able to reopen.

There was disagreement on several other matters, with nearly equal opinions for and against whether book prices should be raised (slightly more in favor) and whether there should be more government support for bricks-and-mortar bookstores (slightly more against). The great majority of booksellers (86%) did not want to open on Sundays. (Last month, Michael Busch, head of the Thalia Mayersche chain, called for a loosening of Germany's laws limiting shopping hours, so that bookstores could open on Sundays until the end of January.)

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

Hooked on Books, Islamorada, Fla., Closing

Hooked on Books, a 22-year-old independent bookstore in Islamorada, Fla., is closing this coming Friday, May 15, Keys Weekly reported.

Owner Cathy Keller, who took over the store from previous owners Penny and Jim Bower in 2005, put the store up for sale in January after she and her husband decided to move back to Pennsylvania to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Keller had found a potential buyer, but when that buyer backed out last week, she decided to close the store.

The store, which sells new and used books for all ages, along with greeting cards, puzzles and other gifts, was originally opened in July 1998 by Jean and Kevin Kelly. The store has a "huge children's section" and a large selection of books pertaining to Florida and the Florida Keys. Keller was a frequent customer before becoming an ownership partner.

"I just feel that a community without a bookstore has lost its soul," Keller told Keys Weekly. "It's so painful to me that there won't be a bookstore in this community anymore. It's been here for 22 years, and the fact that it won't be there anymore is just breaking my heart."

Hooked on Books reopened on May 4 after the state's stay-at-home restrictions were lifted. The store will stay open for a going-out-of-business sale until May 15. Hours will be limited and social-distancing measures will be in place, including a cap on how many can enter the store at a time. All books, cards, bookmarks, puzzles and fixtures will be 50% off, while used books will be $1 each.

Obituary Note: Per Olov Enquist

Swedish author Per Olov Enquist, an award-winning novelist, playwright, poet and screenwriter described as "a giant among European writers" by his publisher, died April 27, the Guardian reported. He was 85. Enquist was winner of the Nordic Council's literary prize and the Swedish Academy's Nordic prize. His historical novel The Visit of the Royal Physician won him the August prize, Sweden's most prestigious literary award after the Nobel. He won a second August award for his 2008 autobiography A Different Life.

Enquist "drew heavily on his own experiences in his writing, whether it was his oppressive childhood in a strictly religious home, his time as a college athlete, work as a journalist and his destructive alcoholism," the Guardian noted. His books, including The Crystal Eye (1961), The Parable Book (2013), The Magnetist's Fifth Winter (1964) and The March of the Musicians (1978), have been translated into a dozen languages. He also helped write the screenplay for the film Pelle the Conqueror, which won an Oscar for best foreign language film.

"Few have, like him, inspired other writers, renewed the documentary novel, revitalized Swedish drama and touched readers for more than half a century," Håkan Bravinger, literary director at his Swedish publisher Norstedts, observed.

Describing him as "a giant among European writers," Christopher MacLehose, who published Enquist in the U.K., said, "He was a novelist of immense stature and range; he was also all his life a playwright; and he was a spellbinding speaker at literary events" and the "kindest, most charming, most curious and witty of men."

Enquist was cited by fellow Swedish writer, Henning Mankell, in Mankell's final diary entry before he died. "Eventually, of course, the day comes when we all have to go," wrote Mankell. "Then we need to remember the words of the author Per Olov Enquist: 'One day we shall die. But all the other days we shall be alive.' "

May Indie Next List E-Newsletter Delivered

Last Thursday, the American Booksellers Association's e-newsletter edition of the Indie Next List for May was delivered to nearly two-thirds of a million of the country's best book readers. The newsletter was sent to customers of 159 independent bookstores, with a combined total of 635,719 subscribers.

The e-newsletter, powered by Shelf Awareness, features all of the month's Indie 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, highlights the book chosen by booksellers as the number-one Indie Next List pick for the month, in this case Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press).

For a sample of the May newsletter, see this one from Four-Eyed Frog Books, Gualala, Calif. The next INL mailing will be on Thursday, June 4.


Image of the Day: New Dominion's Garden in Bloom

New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, Va., shared a picture of its rose garden, "a reminder that beauty still persists in the time of the pandemic," the store wrote. "Two things that haven't changed: the power of a great book, and how majestic the rose garden looks when it's in full bloom." For now, New Dominion Bookshop is open for curbside pickup, local delivery and shipping only.

Asheville's Firestorm Books Rebounds After Break-In

A break-in occurred last week at Firestorm Books & Coffee, Asheville, N.C., which noted on social media that someone had "smashed in the front door, emptied the register, and left behind a live bird (also totally possible that the bird came in separately). Hopefully they also took a good book, because they definitely didn't leave with a lot of money. Y'all, the anarchist bookstore is not sitting on piles of cash. Crime elsewhere!"

Libertie Valance, co-creator of Firestorm, said the co-operative quickly "received a deluge of support from across the country. Folks seemed to particularly resonate with the way we articulated our feelings about vulnerability and carcerality. As a result, our bookstore received over 500 orders from folks who saw our post and wanted to support the store. The influx of orders far exceeded the money we lost, and we even had a few unsolicited donations."

Firestorm posted about the response: "Wow, y'all! We are overwhelmed by the response we've received to yesterday's post. Literally, overwhelmed--as in we're having trouble keeping up with our social media, phone calls, and email inquiries. So here is an update: our door has been fixed! We've received a huge influx of book orders from folks who saw the damage and wanted to show their support. At this point, we have more than covered our losses. So if you need a book, we'd still love to be your go-to bookstore, but if you are just making a purchase to help us recover, please consider donating to a local mutual aid project instead (in Asheville we're really impressed by what @avlsurvival is doing). Stay well and please know that our team is incredibly grateful."

Curbside Pick-up Chalkboard: Island Books

Island Books, Mercer Island, Wash., shared a photo of its sidewalk chalkboard, which explains that the store's curbside pick-up policy is as easy as A ("Announce yourself. Give us a call or approach the store if you see someone behind the counter."), B (Books will be placed outside for you by one of us."), C ("Complete curbside pick-up and pick up your books!").

Pennie Picks: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames (Ecco, $17.99, 9780062862839) as her pick of the month for May. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"This month's book buyer's pick, Juliet Grames' The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, combines two of my favorite things: debut novels and sweeping family dramas.

"Stella Fortuna is beautiful, smart, insolent and cold. She's also a fierce protector of her younger sister, Tina. However, when the family moves to Connecticut during World War II, Stella's independence is threatened.

"In modern-day Connecticut, a family member shares Stella's story, including the rift between Stella and Tina."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Arceneaux on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Michael Arceneaux, author of I Don't Want to Die Poor: Essays (Atria, $17, 9781982129309).

Tamron Hall: Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, authors of What Makes a Marriage Last: 40 Celebrated Couples Share with Us the Secrets to a Happy Life (HarperOne, $29.99, 9780062982582).

Movies: Clark

Actor Bill Skarsgård (It) will play Swedish criminal Clark Olofsson in Clark, a six-part Netflix series adapted from Olofsson's autobiography. In that book, "the convicted drug trafficker and bank robber reflected on his criminal escapades which began in the 1960s," Deadline reported, adding that Olofsson "gave rise to the term 'Stockholm syndrome,' in which hostages forge an affinity with their captor, following a failed bank robbery in the Swedish capital in 1973."

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund (Lords of Chaos), Clark is being produced by Scandinavian Content Group. The writers are Fredrik Agetoft, Peter Arrhenius and Jonas Åkerlund.

"Clark Olofsson is, for good and bad, one of Sweden's most colorful and fascinating individuals," said Skarsgård. "I accept this challenge with delight mingled with terror and think that with Jonas and Netflix in the back, we can tell a groundbreaking story with a pace and madness we may not have seen on TV before."

Åkerlund added: "Clark is the story about the most politically incorrect man, who lived the most politically incorrect life. These are the kinds of stories I always look for."

Books & Authors

Awards: Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Shortlist

London bookseller Goldsboro Books has unveiled the shortlist for the Glass Bell Award, which celebrates "compelling storytelling with brilliant characterization and a distinct voice that is confidently written and assuredly realized." The winner, judged by Goldsboro Books founder and managing director David Headley and his team, will be named July 2 and receive £2,000 (about $2,490) and a handmade, engraved glass bell. This year's shortlisted titles are:

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
The Lost Ones by Anita Frank
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Book Review

Review: Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle (Algonquin Books, $26.95 hardcover, 320p., 9781616209728, July 28, 2020)

Early loss, and how it reverberates for decades in the lives of those who experience it, is the subject of Jill McCorkle's pensive Hieroglyphics. Demonstrating her widely recognized skill at creating memorable stories out of the stuff of daily life, McCorkle's empathy for a quartet of unassuming but appealing characters provides the foundation for a novel whose drama is modest, but whose insight is deep.

After more than 60 years of marriage, octogenarians Lil and Frank Wishart abandon their lifelong home in Massachusetts to move to Southern Pines, N.C., to be close to their daughter. Frank, a retired college professor with a particular interest in ancient burial practices, and Lillian, who ran a dance studio, are united by tragedy. In Lil's case, it's the death of her mother in the fire at Boston's Cocoanut Grove night club in November 1942 that claimed 492 victims, when Lil was 10. Frank suffered the loss of a parent at the same age: his father was killed in a December 1943 train accident--another real-life event--not far from where the Wisharts now live. Their grandson jokes that the pair could have met on a website called "Morbidity Match."

Shelley Lassiter and her six-year-old son, Harvey, round out the foursome of characters from whose points of view McCorkle (Life After Life) tells her story. Abandoned by Harvey's father, Shelley works as a court reporter in Southern Pines, and finds herself in the midst of the trial of a prominent local physician accused of the murder of a young woman whose story feels uncomfortably close to Shelley's own. Harvey, born with a cleft lip, is a sweet boy who has developed a fascination with murderers like Lizzie Borden and the Menendez brothers, and who insists to Shelley that their house--the same one where Frank went to live after his father's death--is haunted.

McCorkle unobtrusively braids the stories of these characters, gently revealing how the traumas of Lillian and Frank's early lives indelibly shaped their perspective on the world, while subtly connecting Frank's story--through his persistent desire to revisit his old house, almost haunting it as a ghost--with that of Shelley and Harvey. In journal entries and letters to her two children, Lillian tries to erect a bulwark against her failing memory, in the process excavating--in an echo of the archeological research Frank so cherishes--the painful memory of his long-ago affair.

Jill McCorkle is an unfussy writer whose storytelling skill almost gives the impression she's simply eavesdropping on her character's lives. It's that quiet talent that makes Hieroglyphics a novel whose appeal will only enlarge in the reader's mind with the passage of time. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: A quiet yet revelatory exploration of how people persist in the face of tragic loss.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Finally by R.L. Mathewson
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
3. Fierce Shadows (Shadows Landing Book 4) by Kathleen Brooks
4. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
5. Can't Fight the Moonlight (Whisper Lake Book 3) by Barbara Freethy
6. Artful Lies by Jodi Ellen Malpas
7. Her by Pierre Alex Jeanty
8. Merciless (The Alpha Bodyguard Series Book 2) by Sybil Bartel
9. The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson
10. Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley

[Many thanks to!]

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