Shelf Awareness for Monday, June 15, 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


California, Washington State Join in Investigations of Amazon

California and Washington State have joined federal authorities and the European Union in examining certain Amazon business practices, particularly Amazon Marketplace. The new state probes are what the New York Times called "a signal that scrutiny of the company is widening, including criticism of the working conditions in its warehouses and accusations that it boxes out small business and competitors. Liberal politicians have singled out the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest person in the world, as examples of out-of-control corporate power."

The California probe's focus is "in part on how Amazon treats sellers in its online marketplace," the Wall Street Journal reported, citing "people familiar with the matter." The probe "includes Amazon's practices for selling its own products in competition with third-party sellers."

The Washington State inquiry "has been interested in whether Amazon makes it harder for sellers to list their products on other websites," the Times wrote.

In April, the Journal reported that "Amazon employees used data about independent sellers on its platform to develop competing products. According to former workers, the company sometimes asked an Amazon business analyst to create reports featuring restricted information or using supposedly aggregated data that was derived exclusively or almost entirely from one seller."

After that article ran, members of the House Judiciary Committee called on Bezos to testify about its private-label practices and is also looking into Amazon's "competitive practices and its impact on markets."

Also in the capital, according to the Journal, "the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission, two federal agencies that enforce U.S. antitrust laws, last year separately met with other retailers about Amazon."

In Europe, after a two-year investigation, the European Union is close to filing antitrust charges against Amazon over some of the same practices the U.S. authorities are looking into. The Wall Street Journal said that the E.U. objections "stem from Amazon's dual role as a marketplace operator and a seller of its own products.... If the company is found in violation, the commission can force Amazon to change business practices and fine it as much as 10% of its annual global revenue--or as much as $28 billion based on 2019 figures."

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

International Update: U.K. Bookstores Reopening Cautiously

U.K. chain Blackwell's is reopening five branches this week after two months in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, "as stores across England prepare to open their doors from June 15," the Bookseller reported. In addition to its flagship Oxford and Cambridge branches, bookshops in Holborn, Manchester and Newcastle all opened today, with safety measures in place. The branches will also have a designated areas for "quarantined books" that have been browsed but not purchased.

"We are pleased to be re-opening some of our shops," said Zool Verjee, head of marketing and publicity. "This is obviously uncharted territory, but we anticipate that many customers will be delighted to be able to browse in physical bookshops once again and we aim to make their shopping experience as safe and easy as we possibly can. Plenty of fabulous books continued to be published during lockdown and are in our shops waiting to be discovered, and we greatly look forward to welcoming customers so that they can return to the joy of browsing books in bookshops."

Blackwell's plans to open its other shops in phases, except for five university campus branches that are closing permanently, the Bookseller noted.


As many indie bookshops in England also prepared to reopen today, the Guardian reported that a Booksellers Association survey of membership found nearly a third of independent bookshops planned to open fully once restrictions were lifted.

"Initially we were assuming that everyone would jump in, but there is quite a variety of opinion," said BA managing director Meryl Halls. "Some shops are desperate to get back for a variety of reasons, some of that commercial and some of it community-based; and some are very cautious--they are worried about staff, family members, or might be shielding themselves."

Melissa Davies and her husband, who had "planned to fulfil a lifelong dream and open Pigeon Books in Southsea at the beginning of April," are now preparing for "a very different sort of opening," the Guardian noted.

"We had to quickly rethink our entire business plan and how we could operate, and now we're gearing up to open our doors for the first time under really different circumstances," she said. "We're excited about opening but also worried about how we're going to make it work and how we can keep ourselves and our customers safe. We'll be opening with reduced hours for a few weeks to see how things go. We're so nervous about it though. Who opens a bookshop in a pandemic?"

At the Beckenham Bookshop in Beckenham, Kelly Bradford is trying to make her store "a pleasant and enriching experience again," with hand-drawn signs, colorful safety markings, sanitizer and even a velvet rope "for that VIP experience." She is anxious "about the public response to us reopening, but I am hopeful, if we can provide a calming environment, then it may help people to find their groove. The future is unknown, and it is scary out there, but I am confident that if anyone can pull off a new way to enjoy shopping it is booksellers."


Last week, Waterstones managing director James Daunt said the chain would open the vast majority of its stores in England today, with shops in Scotland and Wales to reopen once their governments announce dates, the Bookseller reported. Daunt warned, however, against thinking there will be an immediate "rebound," with sales from March, April, and May lost for good, and stores likely to be working at below capacity for the ensuing months. Irish bookshops, including Waterstones and Hodges Figgis, were allowed to reopen June 8.

Daunt added: "It will be pretty much all of the ones we are allowed to reopen, though there will be a few exceptions, the campus stores for example, or where we have two shops that are close to each other, we'll most probably open just one.... We'll set up the shops a few days in advance, and it'll be a case of waiting to see how many customers return. We are trying to manage the flow in and flow out with furniture, so the shops will look a bit different, but not hugely. Our shops are not desperately busy at this time of year in any case, so the issue of limiting numbers may not prove to be massive. For customers, it will look relatively normal, with most changes intuitive, such as a stylus to input a PIN. We've got very good processes, and all the equipment is in place, so I'm confident about that."

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

Hummingbird Digital Media Bought by 306 Media Direct

Hummingbird Digital Media, which offers a free turnkey program that allows booksellers and others to sell e-books and audiobooks, has been bought by 360 Media Direct, the marketing and fulfillment agency with roots in the magazine publishing world. 360 Media Direct was founded more than 30 years ago and has expanded to include a range of digital services, including lead generation tools, customer loyalty platforms and targeted advertising media programs.

Founded in 2014 by Stephen Blake Mettee and Josh Mettee, Hummingbird partners with the American Booksellers Association for e-book sales on IndieCommerce and IndieLite sites. With the sale, Stephen Blake Mettee is retiring, and Josh Mettee is joining 360 Media Direct as executive v-p of Hummingbird Digital Media.

Josh Mettee commented: "I look forward to continuing to grow the relationships and businesses we've built with our indie partners, and over the next year, aided by the talent of our top-notch tech, marketing, and graphic design teams, we plan to enhance the design and user experience of the My Must Reads app and merchant storefronts. Our team will also be focused on connecting even more engaged readers with indies. Our goal is to be a better partner for our merchants and publishers, and to improve our overall footprint in the e-book and audiobook marketplace."

The Hummingbird platform allows bookstores, publishers, media, nonprofits, bloggers and others to compete with Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble in the digital arena, the company said. Each merchant gets its own branded and customizable storefront for customers to use for the discovery, purchasing and downloading of e-books and audiobooks. They also get a branded app for reading and listening.

Obituary Note: James Harvey

James Harvey, whose "meticulous, capacious books on silver-screen love, romantic comedy and the mysteries of star quality are required reading for cinephiles," died May 15, the New York Times reported. He was 90. Harvey "wasn't a popular film critic with a cozy berth at a major publication, or an academic theorist presiding over a formidable film studies department," but his three books were each "more than a decade in the making and meticulously yet gorgeously written."

His first title, Romantic Comedy in Hollywood: From Lubitsch to Sturges (1987), made his reputation. The book was a celebration and analysis of what he called "Hollywood's essential genius," the screwball comedy. Foster Hirsch, a film historian at Brooklyn College, said, "Even if you thought you knew a film, he taught you something more about it."

On NPR in 2008, novelist Anthony Giardina called Harvey "the Samuel Johnson of film writing," and said Movie Love in the Fifties (2001) was the best film book he had ever read. Harvey's third book, Watching Them Be: Star Presence on the Screen From Garbo to Balthazar (2014), "examined the ineffable, transcendent qualities of leading movie actors," the Times wrote.

"He described acting as well or better than anybody," said film critic and author Molly Haskell. "I think he wasn't better known because he only wrote these enormous books. But I think he was one of the great movie critics. He saw the paradox of Hollywood, and you have to have an appreciation for paradox if you love Hollywood. How the most commercial movie can somehow yield art and beauty."

Friend and author Phillip Lopate said: "Part of what was so magical about his books is that he understood the game of romantic comedies, but he treated them seriously, not as something campy. So much film writing is glib or gossipy. Also, he knew other things. He loved opera and the ballet and the theater. He had what Renata Adler said was necessary for being a good critic: He had a well-stocked mind."


Image of the Day: Golden Notebook Celebrates Seniors

In honor of seniors graduating from the local public high school, The Golden Notebook, Woodstock, N.Y., has a wall banner displaying all the graduates' names on the side of the store. After a graduation ceremony that will be broadcast on Woodstock Radio, the seniors will take part in a caravan procession touring the school district. The Golden Notebook is offering a 25% discount on any book purchased for a senior. Pictured: Emily Salem (left), attending Harvard University, and Lucian McMenemy (right), attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this fall.

Atomic Books Turns Boarded Windows into Browsing Option

After a car rammed into Atomic Books, Baltimore, Md., last week, the bookshop had to board up the damaged windows, but promised they might be able to "slap up a cool mural." On Friday, Atomic shared photos of its temporary solution on Facebook, noting: "Car smashed out one side of the shop but now you can do some browsing outside on these photos of some real shelves inside."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Eve Ewing on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Eve Ewing, author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side (University of Chicago Press, $16, 9780226526164).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: John Dickerson, author of The Hardest Job in the World: The American Presidency (Random House, $30, 9781984854513). He will also appear on CBS This Morning.

Movies: Not Without Hope

Miles Teller will play the lone survivor of Not Without Hope, based on the novel by Nick Schuyler and Jere Longman, the Hollywood Reporter wrote. Directed by Rupert Wainwright (Stigmata, The Fog) from a screenplay by E. Nicholas Mariani, the project tells the story of a 2009 boating tragedy in which four friends were caught up in a violent storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Ciara will executive produce through their production company, Why Not You. Highland Film Group will be launching international sales at the upcoming virtual Cannes market, with CAA Media Finance handling the domestic rights.

"We are very excited to help bring this inspiring true story to the big screen," said Highland Film Group CEO Arianne Fraser. "In today's world of uncertainty, we definitely need feature films that are able to instill hope, courage and strength."

Books & Authors

Awards: James Beard Book Winners

The winners of the 2020 James Beard Foundation Book Awards are:

Book of the Year: The Whole Fish Cookbook: New Ways to Cook, Eat and Think by Josh Niland (Hardie Grant Books)
Cookbook Hall of Fame: Jancis Robinson
American: Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin (Clarkson Potter)
Baking and Desserts: Living Bread: Tradition and Innovation in Artisan Bread Making by Daniel Leader & Lauren Chattman (Avery)
Beverage with Recipes: The NoMad Cocktail Book by Leo Robitschek (Ten Speed Press)
Beverage without Recipes: World Atlas of Wine 8th Edition by Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson (Mitchell Beazley)
General: Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook by Carla Lalli Music (Clarkson Potter)
Health and Special Diets: Gluten-Free Baking at Home: 102 Foolproof Recipes for Delicious Breads, Cakes, Cookies and More by Jeffrey Larsen (Ten Speed Press)
International: Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus with Jeff Koehler (Interlink Publishing)
Photography: Eric Wolfinger for American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta by Evan Funke & Katie Parla (Chronicle Books)
Reference, History and Scholarship: The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration by Chris Smith (Chelsea Green Publishing)
Restaurant and Professional: The Whole Fish Cookbook: New Ways to Cook, Eat and Think by Josh Niland (Hardie Grant Books)
Single Subject: Pasta Grannies: The Official Cookbook: The Secrets of Italy's Best Home Cooks by Vicky Bennison (Hardie Grant Books)
Vegetable-Focused Cooking: Whole Food Cooking Every Day: Transform the Way You Eat with 250 Vegetarian Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy and Refined Sugar by Amy Chaplin (Artisan Books)
Writing: Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer by Bren Smith (Knopf)

Book Review

Review: Crooked Hallelujah

Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford (Grove, $26 hardcover, 304p., 9780802149121, July 14, 2020)

Kelli Jo Ford makes a magnificent #OwnVoices debut with Crooked Hallelujah. The book already has significant plaudits: the seventh chapter, "Hybrid Vigor," won the Paris Review's Plimpton Prize in 2019, and her pre-publication manuscript won the 2019 Everett Southwest Literary Award from the University of Central Oklahoma. Additional honors are deservedly plenty for Ford's novel-in-stories as it follows a Cherokee Nation family, repeatedly broken by choice and circumstance, through the women who remain connected throughout.

In 1974, 15-year-old Justine lives in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma with her aging Granny and embittered mother, Lula. Almost seven years ago, Justine's father delivered his family to Beulah Springs Holiness Church for service and vanished: "Lula held herself together with a religion so stifling and frightening that Justine... never knew if she was fighting against her mother or God himself." Her first act of rebellion--sneaking out to meet an older boy--ends in rape. The traumatized, silenced teen births Reney, sealing their symbiotic relationship for life: "Mom was my sun and my moon," Reney later observes. "I was her all, too, and that was us. Her: equal parts beautiful optical illusion and fiery hot star. And me: an imperfect planet she kept as close as she could."

In the decades that follow, Justine works hard to break the cycle of abandonment and neglect for Reney. Despite floundering relationships with useless men, Justine eventually marries Pitch, whom she can't live without--no matter how many times they leave each other. Justine and Reney move to Texas, where Reney settles into a ready-made family, finding comfort and support in Pitch's family's farm, most especially with Pitch's debilitated mother, another forsaken woman, although she's still married to his philandering father. As Reney matures, she seems doomed to repeat her mother's mistakes but eventually finds the strength to drive far, far away.

While never losing sight of Justine and Reney, Ford's interlinked structure allows for an intriguing, vast cast. Lula's debilitating illness makes her truculently obsessed with McDonald's, where she insists she's treated like a queen. Pitch's father's devotion to his prized mare grants him undeserved freedom while his wife remains trapped in their crumbling home. An isolated young man who's recently lost his mother finds a new family with a lesbian couple. A citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Ford adroitly, affectingly weaves indigenous history into her spellbinding narrative, exposing displacement, unacknowledged violence, cultural erasure, relentless racism and socioeconomic disparity. Post-publication, Ford should expect plenty of applause and awards to come. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Debut #OwnVoices author Kelli Jo Ford introduces a multi-generational family of Cherokee women in her splendid novel-in-stories, Crooked Hallelujah.

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