Also published on this date: Tuesday, June 2, 2020: Kids' Maximum Shelf: The Barren Grounds

Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, June 2, 2020

University of Texas Press: Grief Is a Sneaky Bitch: An Uncensored Guide to Navigating Loss by Lisa Keefauver

Berkley Books: Hair-raising horror to sink your teeth into!

Berkley Books: The Hitchcock Hotel by Stephanie Wrobel

Queen Mab Media: Get Our Brand Toolkit

Ballantine Books: Gather Me: A Memoir in Praise of the Books That Saved Me by Glory Edim

Ace Books: Rewitched by Lucy Jane Wood

Graywolf Press: We're Alone: Essays by Edwidge Danticat

St. Martin's Press: Runaway Train: Or, the Story of My Life So Far by Erin Roberts with Sam Kashner

Quotation of the Day

'Be the Change'

"We are incredibly grateful to the wonderfully kind customer who connected us with friends to cover the store. Then he covered the cost. An example to live up to. Be a light in the darkness, like he is. That way we can all live in light. Be the change."

--Madison Street Books, Chicago, Ill., on Facebook


BINC: Click to Apply to the Macmillan Booksellers Professional Development Scholarships


Sarah McNally: Rent, Not Amazon or Covid-19, Is the Real Danger

"If any of my stores close, it will not be because of Amazon or wages or a lack of support from my beloved customers," wrote Sarah McNally, owner of four McNally Jackson Books stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan, N.Y., in an opinion piece published in the New York Times last Friday.

By far the biggest threat to her stores, McNally continued, is artificially high rent, kept that way by a variety of systemic problems in New York real estate. For a number of reasons, an empty storefront that "theoretically commands a high rent can be a safer option for a landlord than a reliable tenant paying a reasonable rent," and she pointed out that despite the ever-increasing number of vacant storefronts in many New York neighborhoods, rents have not gone down as one might expect.

Looking ahead to when New York businesses fully reopen, the vacancy rate will likely be "catastrophic" unless a plan is put in place to provide small businesses with relief. She wrote: "When the shutdown is over, small-business owners like me will be expected to pay our back rent, despite months of lost revenue. And our excessively high rents will remain in place even though fewer customers may be allowed in our shops, fewer diners in our restaurants, fewer clients in our salons."

Watkins Publishing: Fall Into Folklore! ARCS Available On Request

John Donovan to Lead Norton U.K.

John Donovan has been appointed the next managing director of W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., Norton's wholly owned U.K. subsidiary, effective July 1. Donovan succeeds Edward Crutchley, who will retire in July but continue to serve on the governing board.

Most recently, Donovan was regional director, U.K. and Europe, for McGraw Hill Education, and held a variety of positions at that company during his 15 years there. He began his publishing career with Prentice Hall.

Julia Reidhead, president of Norton, said that Donovan "brings a wealth of international managerial experience across the realms of sales, marketing, editorial and digital-product development. His initiatives and accomplishments in those realms will allow him to lead Norton Ltd. successfully as it becomes the strategic center of Norton's global sales presence."

"I am thrilled to join a company I have long admired for its diversity of publishing and its distinguished list of books and authors," Donovan said. "I thank my predecessor, Edward Crutchley, and his outstanding team of colleagues for their many achievements, which make the prospect of joining the firm exciting, and which inspire confidence in its opportunities for future growth."

International Update: Eason Cuts Jobs; Aussie Indies Adapt

Irish bookstore chain Eason plans to cut 150 jobs "and put some other staff on a four-day week from June 1 as it looks to reduce its costs by 30% in response to the financial hit from the coronavirus lockdown of the economy," the Irish Times reported, noting that the company's stores have been shuttered since March 24.

Eason aims to open four to six of its outlets on June 10, and the rest by August, "subject to the continued opening up of the economy and consumer demand," the Irish Times wrote. The retailer has contacted all of its landlords to seek rent reductions.

In a letter to staff, Eason managing director Liam Hanly said the cost-cutting measures were necessary to ensure the business "remains sustainable in the context of what we believe will be a very different retail landscape in the future." He added that the book market had declined by 20% overall since the lockdow, with online sales making up 80% of Eason's total book revenues compared with the same period of last year.

"We will continue to invest in and develop our online offering," Hanly said. "However, our success in online does lay bare the significant challenges we will face should the migration to online remain substantially or even partially permanent, with the associated impact on footfall in store."


When the Covid-19 shutdown hit Australia, indie bookshops had to "adapt or perish," the Age reported, adding that they "chose adapt, in time to catch a new kind of consumer: one who needed books more than ever. And they saw their years spent building local ties pay off."

For Sam Baker and Natalie Latter, owners of Rabble Books and Games, Maylands, "the time they'd put into creating a haven for Perth's minority groups through book clubs and events paid off," the Age noted.

"Part of what gave us the courage to adapt so quickly was as soon as it became clear small businesses were going to struggle, people came immediately wanting to buy things," Latter said. "It became clear that for people staying home with their kids they needed books. And people living by themselves, who needed ways of connecting with the world. We had so many people coming and messaging us saying, 'I haven't read a book in years but now is the time, so what can you recommend?' We really felt the weight of those recommendations--like, 'this is it.' "

At Beaufort Street Books, Mount Lawley, owner Jane Seaton said, "Our community has been absolutely lovely. The number of phone calls and comments: 'Are you OK, we don't want you going anywhere'… it's made people realize the value of what is in their local community."

Alan Sheardown, owner of Crow Books in Victoria Park, and New Edition in Fremantle, said both stores "are quite community-minded and both bookshops belong to those communities as much as me. I feel all the genuine work we've done in being the bookshop for these communities has paid dividends, in that people felt committed to it and bought books from us when there were other options. We were lucky too, in that our product was perfect for the times we were all living through."


When the modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) took effect on May 16, bookstores in the Philippines, which had been closed since mid-March, were once again allowed to open, but with precautions, Lifestyle.INQ reported. Major chains, including National Book Store, Fully Booked and Pandayan Bookshop, have since reopened select branches under strict safety protocols while increasing their delivery capacity. NBS has now opened more than 100 stores, Fully Booked 24 of its 31 branches and Pandayan almost all of its 134 branches nationwide.

"To date, we have no clear estimate of lost sales in our book category," said Gerardo Cabochan Jr., managing director of Pandayan. "Sales were at a standstill during the lockdown, except for the few occasions when local government units and hospitals requested that we open a store for an hour or two to serve their needs. As expected, sales were and continue to be weak because of the prolonged school break and strict constraints on the movement of people."

NBS Group managing director Xandra Ramos-Padilla commented: "We are committed to providing a safe and sanitary environment for everyone. The floors, surfaces and shopping baskets are regularly cleaned and disinfected. To ensure that proper social distancing is maintained, we are limiting the number of customers inside the store. Floor markers are installed every two meters inside and outside the store for proper queuing distancing. We also require all employees and customers to wear face masks and encourage them to use the alcohol bottles provided at our cashier counters."

Nicole Sun-Balmaceda, marketing manager at Fully Booked, said they were "also taking into consideration the welfare and capacity of our front-line employees in their respective branches. We don't know how long this will last, and management of resources will be vital in any company's success. But while there is still a demand for books and conditions prove safe for our employees, we will try our best to remain open in as many branches as we can."

She added: "This pandemic has also brought to light what our customers deem important in sustaining their lifestyles. We see that people seek out books for knowledge, entertainment and health, and we're happy to be able to provide these for people's physical, mental and emotional health."

A Whale of a Tale Children's Bookshoppe Closing

A Whale of a Tale Children's Bookshoppe, Irvine, Calif., announced it was closing at the end of May. In a letter posted on Facebook, owner Alexandra Uhl noted that during last few months, "we've all had to navigate unprecedented challenges." She expressed gratitude to customers for their understanding, flexibility generosity, loyalty and support of the curbside service.

Uhl explained that the reasons for closing "are complicated and also obvious. Our lease is up, the shopping center has been going in a different direction the last few years... and moving the store would have been the BEST option! The hope was to retire, pass the torch and Whale of a Tale would continue to live on in the community. Given timing, circumstances, uncertainty and rent... waiting it out would be difficult and costly. No opportunity for a farewell party, closing sale, or bittersweet goodbyes. It's best to box everything, surrender the keys, and figure out the next step tomorrow."

Noting that Irvine "has been our home since 1988," Uhl wrote that "it has been our privilege to serve you and the surrounding communities, schools and libraries. To all the amazing people that have supported us, we are forever grateful…. To the brilliant authors & illustrators that visited and contributed to the success of the store, we salute you and send our gratitude. And to the amazing sales reps and publishers who helped make the store the best it could be... thank you! We could not have done it without you! Thank you to my outstanding staff members and volunteers over the last 32 years, for the dedication, kindness, creativity, patience and commitment.... Thank you for the memories and the magnificent voyage. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay strong, and make time to read together."

Obituary Note: Steve Hann

Steven Hann, the sidewalk bookseller who was a fixture near Columbia University in New York City, died of heart problems likely associated with the coronavirus, the New York Times reported. He was 67. 

Hann began selling books and CDs in the early '80s in stores in Morningside Heights. Eventually he set up shop on Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets, where he continued to do business for decades. And even as his health declined in recent years, he commuted to his customary spot from his nursing home in the Bronx. 

Bookseller Veronica Liu, founder of the nonprofit bookstore Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria in Washington Heights, was a longtime friend of Hann as well as an editor and publisher of his writing and poetry. She told the Times that his sidewalk shop helped connect people to books and stories to people, and it "kept up his spirit to be out there."


Cool Idea of the Day: 'Retail Priority Pick-Up Zone'

The city of Mercer Island, Wash., recently implemented a "Retail Priority Pick-Up Zone" on SE 30th Street for the Islandia Shopping Center, where tenants include Island Books. "Just like the 'Food Priority Pick-Up Zones' in Town Center, these new 3-minute loading zones provide a safe and convenient way to access curbside service from your favorite local businesses," the city said.

On Facebook, Island Books expressed its appreciation, noting: "Running a small business has never been easy and the current climate makes it even more challenging. Small businesses are facing a strong headwind and we appreciate the City of Mercer Island and Mercer Island Police Department efforts to provide us all with a small tailwind. Please reach out to the city and city council to thank them and let them know you appreciate their efforts on behalf of small businesses on Mercer Island."

Bookshop Cat: Frank at Next Page Books

Posted on Facebook by Next Page Books, Cedar Rapids, Iowa: "Frank is back! Following a three-month papa-imposed hibernation, Frank made his triumphant return to the bookstore this morning. As one might imagine, he's pretty happy about it. If you're lucky, you may well spot him in the window as you pass by or pull up curbside for a pick-up. Small steps but we're hopeful this is the first one towards better days ahead."

Lerner to Distribute New Frontier Publishing

Effective August 1, Lerner Publisher Services, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, will be exclusive distributor in North America for New Frontier Publishing.

Established in 2002, New Frontier Publishing, with headquarters near Sydney, Australia, is a children's book publisher that specializes in primary school age books. Its motto is "to inspire, educate and uplift children."

Lerner Publisher Services will distribute nine new titles from New Frontier Publishing starting in fall 2020, including Pelican in Peril, the first novel in the new Eco Rangers series by Candice Lemon-Scott; Boo Loves Books by Kaye Baillie and illustrated by Tracie Grimwood; and A Home for Luna by Stef Gemmill and illustrated by Mel Armstrong.

Sophia Whitfield, publishing director of New Frontier, called Lerner "the perfect distributor for our board books, picture books and middle grade fiction. We are thrilled that through Lerner Publishing Services we will have the opportunity to showcase the creative talent of our authors and illustrators in the U.S."

David Wexler, executive v-p of sales for Lerner Publishing Group, said, "With the addition of New Frontier Publishing, Lerner Publisher Services will expand its offerings by adding beautiful and educational board books, compelling and uniquely illustrated picture books, and high quality middle grade fiction. New Frontier's books, which were created to educate, uplift, and inspire, perfectly align with Lerner's catalog of exceptional and award-winning children's books."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: André Leon Talley on Tamron Hall

Tamron Hall repeat: André Leon Talley, author of The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir (Ballantine, $28, 9780593129258).

Watership Down Enterprises Wins Case Against Film Producer

A court in England has ruled in favor of Watership Down Enterprises, the estate and family of author Richard Adams, in an action brought against producer Martin Rosen, who wrote and directed a 1978 animated film based on the classic novel, Variety reported.

The judgment ordered Rosen and companies controlled by him to pay the estate court costs and an initial payment for damages totaling approximately $95,000 within 28 days for infringing copyright, agreeing to "unauthorized license deals and denying royalty payments," Variety wrote, adding that additional damages will be assessed at a future hearing.

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court also terminated the original contract in which motion picture rights for Watership Down were originally granted to Rosen in 1976. In addition, IPEC granted an injunction preventing Rosen and his companies from continuing to license rights to Watership Down, and directed them to give further disclosures of their activities and to destroy infringing materials.

Juliet Johnson, Adams's daughter and the managing director of Watership Down Enterprises, commented: "As custodians of this most beloved novel, our family has an obligation to protect the publishing and other rights for Watership Down, and to preserve the essence of our father's creation. After many years trying to resolve matters directly with Martin Rosen, we are extremely pleased with the High Court's ruling. We can now look forward to the future and develop new projects that honor the powerful and pertinent messages of Watership Down about the environment, leadership and friendship."

Books & Authors

Awards: Lambda Literary Winners; Klaus Flugge Shortlist

Winners have been announced for the Lambda Literary Awards (the "Lammys"), which have, for more than 30 years, "identified and honored the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books." See the complete list of category winners and finalists on Lambda Literary's website.

Along with the book award winners, special honors for their extraordinary contributions to literature, publishing and the LGBTQ community went to Jericho Brown (Lambda's Trustee Award), Jane Wagner (Visionary Award) and Brian Lam (Publishing Professional Award).


The shortlist has been released for the £5,000 (about $6,220) Klaus Flugge Prize, which highlights "the most promising and exciting newcomers to picture book illustration." The winner will be revealed on September 16. The shortisted illustrators are:

When Sadness Comes to Call by Eva Eland
The Star in the Forest by Helen Kellock
Where Is Your Sister? by Puck Koper
On the Origin of Species by Sabina Radeva
One Fox: A Counting Thriller Book by Kate Read

Book Review

Review: In the Land of Good Living: A Journey to the Heart of Florida

In the Land of Good Living: A Journey to the Heart of Florida by Kent Russell (Knopf, $26.95 hardcover, 320p., 9780525521389, July 7, 2020)

If Hunter Thompson and Joan Didion had produced a literary offspring, a young man whose older brother was Bill Bryson, his writing might sound something like Kent Russell's. That's the spirit that infuses In the Land of Good Living: A Journey to the Heart of Florida, Russell's entertaining, often deeply reflective portrait of his uneasy relationship with his native state, a place he calls "Hothouse America, a microcosm or synecdoche of the larger nation."

In late August 2016, the Miami-born journalist (I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son), along with his friends Glenn, a Canadian documentary film producer, and Noah, an Iraq War Marine veteran and fellow Floridian, embarked on a daunting journey, attempting to re-create the 1,000-mile walking campaign of former governor and senator Lawton Chiles in 1970. The goal, as Russell enthusiastically envisioned it, was to produce the "grandest, funniest, most far-ranging, depth-plumbing, tear-jerking, je-ne-sais-quoi-capturing work of art ever to emerge from the rank morasses and mirage metropolises of our beloved home!"

If they don't quite pull off that feat, the resulting account of their shambling odyssey on foot through America's "most dangerous pedestrian state" will more than suffice. Energetic and insightful, In the Land of Good Living bounces between the madcap account of the trio's frequent misadventures as they trudge across the state--from the "grim hotels and fried fish shacks" of Perdido Key in the Panhandle to flashy Miami, with its "combination of arriviste decadence and abject poverty"--and biting reflections on subjects that include looming environmental catastrophe and some of the "carpetbaggers, chicanerers, and salesfellows who grafted the American Dream onto strange roots in sandy soil."

At various moments, Russell and his compatriots attend a hurricane party, evade a pack of hounds, survive a near miss with an apparently homicidal pickup truck driver, and hang out with assorted denizens of Florida life, including archetypal "Florida Men," among them an alligator hunter and the ex-addict who plays Jesus in an "unofficial capacity" at Orlando's Holy Land Experience. Russell skillfully juxtaposes these sometimes bizarre, frequently hilarious, encounters (some of them recounted in the form of shooting scripts for the projected documentary) with glimpses of the history of the "swamp of self-creation that, for better or worse, leads the nation the way a jutting thermometer leads the infirm" and visions of its perilous future.

Love it or loathe it, the third most populous state occupies an outsized presence in American life and consciousness. Anyone who wants to better understand why that is, and what it portends for the country, would do well to start with In the Land of Good Living. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Journalist Kent Russell provides an unvarnished look at the attractive mess that is his home state.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Securing Avery by Susan Stoker
2. The Restaurant by Pamela M. Kelley
3. Fight for Me by Corinne Michaels
4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
5. An Amish Cupcake Cozy Mystery Three Book Box Set by Ruth Hartzler
6. False Assurances by Christopher Rosow
7. Southern Storm (The Southern Series Book 3) by Natasha Madison
8. Bullets and Beads (A Miss Fortune Mystery Book 17) by Jana DeLeon
9. Threat Bias (Ben Porter Series Book 2) by Christopher Rosow
10. Fourth a Lie by Pepper Winters

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