Also published on this date: Wednesday, June 24, 2020: Maximum Shelf: Piranesi

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 24, 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

Quotation of the Day

'75% of the Orders Are for the Same 10 Titles'

"The majority of e-mails we are receiving are encouraging and very fair, you would like to know the status of your order. We are also receiving a number of disheartening e-mails asking us to cancel orders and refund payments, criticisms about how slow we are and that we have poor customer service because we have not answered an e-mail. We do hope each and every one of you who has shown us support by purchasing through our website believe we are not accepting your money with the intention to keep it and not send out your orders.

"Seventy-five percent of the orders are for the same 10 titles, and those titles were quickly depleted from bookstores across this country. We have since learned that we are not the only Black-owned bookstore receiving tremendous support and thousands of orders for the same titles. The publishers of the titles in demand had to go to reprint which is taking some time but they are beginning to trickle in to us.... We humbly ask that you PLEASE bear with us."

--Clarissa and Leonard Egerton, co-owners of the Frugal Bookstore, Roxbury, Mass., in an e-mail to customers (via

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


Bookshop Has Sales Near $20 Million, Expanding to the U.K.

Since beginning operations in January, has had sales of $18 million: 65% from bookstores using the site for e-commerce; 20% affiliate sales; and 15% direct from Bookshop, according to Andy Hunter, founder and CEO of Bookshop--which, of course, has proven invaluable to many stores during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the site has raised more than $4.3 million for distribution to independent bookstores, and Hunter predicts sales of more than $40 million for the year, higher than the $36 million that he said at Winter Institute was Bookshop's sales goal for 2023. Some 750 bookstores have joined Bookshop.

Later this year, "hopefully before the holidays," Bookshop will open in the U.K., working with book wholesaler Gardners. "It's going to be a ton of work and we already feel at our limit," Hunter said. "But they really, really want us to come." In the U.K., fewer stores than in the U.S. have e-commerce--or even informational--websites, and there's no equivalent to the American Booksellers Association's IndieCommerce.

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

Light Trap Books Opens in Jackson, Tenn.

Light Trap Books has opened at 202 West Lafayette Street in Jackson, Tenn. Due to social distancing guidelines, there is a limit of 10 customers in the store at a time, face masks are recommended and hand sanitizer stations available.

Owner Lauren Smothers told WBBJ she believes this is a store for Jackson and for the wider West Tennessee community: "Light Trap Books is a new and used independent bookstore. We can order any title you want. I think it's wonderful to see folks coming out because without the community, Light Trap wouldn't be possible. I had a Kickstarter campaign in February and the goal was to raise $10,000 for the store, and we raised over $11,000."

Her passion for writing and being a teacher motivated Smothers to open a bookstore, something she has wanted to do for four years. "I really have a vision for a place for the community," she said. "[A] kind of third space where people can dialogue about the issues in their community and can educate themselves and also entertain."

On the store's Kickstarter page, Smothers wrote that not only would Light Trap Books "carry a selection of books suited to and curated for west Tennesseans, it will provide a physical location convenient to customers. When I starting planning the store, what I had in mind was a 'third place'.... So I planned and dreamed. I wanted several things to be true. I came up with the list that's at the beginning of my story.... I'm so excited for the future of Light Trap Books. I hope you are too."

Ada's Discovery Café in Seattle Closing, Other Options Added

Ada's Technical Books & Café, Seattle, Wash., announced that Ada's Discovery Café "will not be opening back up post-pandemic. AT&T has made the decision to close the Lounge for good and because Discovery was a pop-up in their storefront, that means we will be closed as well," the company said in a Facebook post.

Because three Fuel Coffee locations have recently been added to the Ada's family, all Discovery employees are "invited to continue their employment with us there!" The four options include the original Ada's Technical Books & Cafe on 15th Ave., which is open now; and the three Fuel Coffee locations in Montlake (open June 26), Capitol Hill and Wallingford (opening soon).

How Bookstores Are Coping: Flexible Business Model, Customer Support

Angela Maria Spring

Angela Maria Spring, owner of Duende District Bookstore, reported that her store has gone fully online during the pandemic. She has three pop-up locations, two in Washington, D.C., and another in Albuquerque, N.Mex., which are in partner businesses that will remain closed for the foreseeable future. 

Dio Wine Bar, one of those partner businesses, has been operating on a pick-up basis during the pandemic but last week announced that it would close permanently. Spring said she is very sad about the news, but customers can still shop that pop-up's selection on Dio's website. Her inventory with Red Planet Books & Comics, meanwhile, is also available online.

Looking ahead, Spring said she doesn't plan to open any temporary, on-the-ground pop-ups until next spring at least. She will be holding virtual author events, however, and she has another long-term partnership in Washington, D.C., planned, but that is delayed until the partner business can reopen.

With her store's business model being so flexible, Spring continued, it has not been difficult to accommodate and work around her partner businesses' needs. However, the communities that she and her partner stores serve are also those that have been hit hardest by the pandemic, both in terms of health and finances, making it much harder to stay open "on the ground." In the case of Dio Wine Bar closing, she explained, it was not the current crisis that led the owner to making that decision, but the challenges that likely lay ahead.

Duende District at Dio Wine Bar

Due to Duende's business model, Spring added, her store doesn't qualify for most of the government assistance that's available. As such, she's been very grateful for things like Save Indie Bookstores and being a Bookshop affiliate.

In March, she and her team refocused everything on Duende's online presence, and though the store is very small, those efforts have paid off. The biggest game-changer came last month, when Spring decided to reroute all of Duende's online sales through her affiliate page. The move roughly coincided with the start of the current protest movement as well as the efforts to support BIPOC-owned bookstores. She collaborated with Bookstagrammer Lupita Aquino on a graphic featuring a list of Black-owned bookstores to support that went viral on Blackout Tuesday, and Spring said that without Bookshop, it would have been very difficult to keep up with the ensuing rush of orders.

Over the past few weeks Duende began donating 10% of all of its Bookshop proceeds to legal funds, Black arts initiatives and Black organizations and activists, and the store will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. And several times per week, the store has been making Instagram posts about different ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement, such as a recent post about #AllEyesOnKentucky. As the movement goes on, Spring and her team plan to help in any way they can, including "continuing to battle the anti-Black racism in our own Latinx communities."


In Greensboro, N.C., Wonderland Bookshop has reopened for browsing. Store hours have been reduced to 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and co-owners Amy Lamb and Beth Berger are limiting the number of customers in store to four people or one family. They noted that without customers supporting them over the past few month through online orders, they wouldn't have made it to this point. 

At only 700 square feet, the store is very small, and Berger and Lamb have canceled their story time sessions, which used to be held twice per week. The store is also very clearly structured, with board and picture books in the back, middle grade on one side, and YA on the other, and that has helped with maintaining distance.

So far, they added, everyone who has come in has worn masks, "even the little ones," and their customers have been very polite about social distancing. Greensboro as a whole, however, is a bit more mixed when it comes to wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines, although the city did just issue a proclamation requiring face masks to be worn in public places.

Since protests began in late May, Wonderland Bookshop has sold a lot of antiracist books, with many still on order, and Lamb and Berger have been featuring antiracist titles in social media posts and in displays at the store.

Zondervan Books Moving to Nashville

HarperCollins Christian Publishing has relocated the imprints Zondervan Books and Zondervan Thrive from Grand Rapids, Mich., to its corporate office in Nashville, Tenn., in order to "share best practices across the company's trade book publishing program." For the time being, Zondervan other imprints, including Zondervan Academic, Zondervan Reflective and Zonderkids, will remain in Grand Rapids.

Webster Younce, previously associate publisher and executive editor at Nelson Books, is now v-p and publisher of Zondervan Books and Zondervan Thrive, while Paul Fisher has become v-p of marketing, after serving as senior director of marketing for the Thomas Nelson and Zondervan fiction programs.

Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing and HarperCollins Focus, said: "Creating a more cohesive structure for our trade book publishing imprints allows for us to manage our nonfiction brands under Don Jacobson's leadership. We believe that having Zondervan Books and Zondervan Thrive leadership in Nashville will help the teams better manage author relationships and allow them to collaborate on larger corporate initiatives."

Zondervan was founded in 1931 in Grandville, Mich., and was purchased by HarperCollins in 1988.

Virtual Memorial Event for Carolyn Reidy Set for July 8

A virtual event that will honor and celebrate the life of Carolyn Reidy, the former Simon & Schuster president and CEO, who died on May 12, is being organized. Open to the public, the event will begin at 4 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, July 8. Details to follow.


Masking Up: Prairie Fox Books

Posted on Facebook yesterday by Prairie Fox Books, Ottawa, Ill.:

"Please be respectful and patient with safety guidelines! We require masks for everyone's safety, and we ask that you do not take your mask frustration out on us. We are only human! If you do not want to wear a mask, that is definitely your choice, but please understand that stores have guidelines posted and they are there for a reason. We are not emotional punching bags. We are booksellers. Please remember that!"

Media and Movies

TV: The Anarchy

Siddharth Roy Kapur, former managing director of the Walt Disney Company India and current president of the Producers Guild of India, acquired exclusive screen rights to The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple. Deadline reported that the book, released in 2019, "received rave reviews including from Barack Obama, who named it among his top books of 2019."

Kapur, who is planning a major TV adaptation, "is now bringing together an international creative team to begin crafting the script," Deadline noted. Kapur's credits include Dangal, India's highest grossing film of all time.

"When I read the book, I was so awestruck by the potential in the material. This is an important story to tell around the world," said Kapur. "It should be done in the right way, I'm in no hurry to jump in. I want to get the right creative talent associated with the project to give it the heft it needs for a global platform....

"It would be great to get a collaborative, cross-cultural writers room in place, where you have talent from the U.S. and the U.K. as well as India, sitting together. The Indian writers will be able to bring their very local perspective, flavor, texture, character, and when it comes to structure, something of this magnitude, a lot of help can come from writers in the West who are trained in doing that."

Books & Authors

Awards: Polari Longlists; Bloody Scotland

Longlists for the £2,000 (about $2,505) Polari Prize, which recognizes an overall Book of the Year and is open to writers at any stage of their career (except debuts), and the £1,000 (about $1,255) Polari First Book Prize for LGBTQ+ literature have been announced. The shortlists will be released July 31. Check out the complete Polari longlists here


Bloody Scotland has released a longlist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year, which includes a prize of £1,000 (about $1,255) and nationwide promotion in Waterstones, as well as a shortlist for the Debut Crime Book of the Year. McIlvanney Prize finalists will be announced September 1 and winners of both awards named September 18. 

Reading with... Scott Spencer

photo: Elena Seibert

Scott Spencer is the author of 12 novels--two of which were finalists for the National Book Award--including Endless LoveWaking the DeadA Ship Made of Paper and, most recently, An Ocean Without a Shore (Ecco, June 16, 2020). He has taught at Columbia University, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Williams College, the University of Virginia and at Eastern Correctional Facility as part of the Bard Prison Initiative. He lives in upstate New York.

On your nightstand now:

On my nightstand now is A Brief History of Fascist Lies by Federico Finchelstein--George Santayana said that those who don't understand the past are doomed to repeat it, but as I read Finchelstein I think that understanding the past may not be enough. I live with a neatnik, so I don't like to make a pile on my side of the bed. Only two other books are there now, Disgrace by Coetzee, a re-read, inspired by a recent re-read of Don DeLillo's White Noise. Just as you need to re-see a great painting, some books need to be revisited from time to time. Their brilliance is foundational. The third book on my night table is Return to Romance, an appreciation of Ogden Whitney, creator of Courage and Kisses, I Want a Real Man and many other illustrated soap operas, the so-called love comics, a genre I've always enjoyed.  

Favorite book when you were a child:

My favorite book as a child was The Kid from Tompkinsville by John R. Tunis, a bit creaky now, perhaps, but a great compromise for me as a boy--satisfying my parents' wish to see me curled up with a book, and my desire to think about baseball baseball baseball, and imagine myself as The Kid, breaking into the majors, though my fantasy debut was with the White Sox, not the Dodgers!

Your top five authors:

The authors I am most drawn to appear and recede as my life takes its inevitable plunges, ascents and hairpin turns. But when I think of who I read with pleasure and awe 50 years ago and still read with pleasure and awe today, three names appear: Shakespeare, Dickens, Nabokov. Those who I read 30 years ago, and still read today: Morrison, Roth, Hemingway.

Book you've faked reading:

Yes, there are a couple of books I've faked reading. And I've done so to people-please the authors. Not proud of it, but I'd be insane to confess at this point.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I have made it a point to get copies of Charles Portis's Dog of the South into the hands of loved ones. Likewise, Portis's Masters of Atlantis. Also have happily given A Mother's Kisses and Stern, both by Bruce Jay Friedman. What these four books have in common is a voice--cockeyed and poker-faced--that quickly winds its way into you and provokes laughter that can verge on the uncontrollable.

Book you hid from your parents:

As a prudish but desirous 12-year-old, the book I hid from my parents was Mickey Spillane's I, the Jury, a paperback that they, in fact, were hiding from me. I re-read the sexy and violent end innumerable times, until my parents caught on that I'd discovered their guilty pleasure and the book mysteriously vanished.

Book that changed your life:

The book that changed by life was--undoubtedly--The New American Poetry, 1945-1960, an anthology put together by Donald Allen. The poetry riveted me, and the little manifestos written by the poets at the back of the book formed a reading list that lasted for me several years, and was, more than any classroom, the source of my higher education.

Favorite line from a book:

My favorite line from a book? So difficult to choose. Maybe impossible. First thought is I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, from Ginsberg's Howl, first encountered in the above-mentioned Donald Allen anthology. The line, maximalist and unafraid, invites argument, even a bit of eye-rolling. But the music of it really got to me, and still does, as did/does Isn't it pretty to think so, from Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

Five books you'll never part with:

The above-mentioned neatnik (see: bedside table) sometimes mentions our culling the books in our library. Guarding against the possibility of her reading this, I am not going to whittle my preferences down to five. I would really prefer not to part with any of my books, even the ones that won't be re-read, and some that weren't finished the first time through. The books are memories, signposts of a life's journey. And they deserve the respect of a frequently dusted shelf upon which to grow old.

Book Review

YA Review: A Map to the Sun

A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong (First Second/Macmillan, $17.99 paperback, 368p., ages 12-up, 9781250146687, August 4, 2020)

Vibrant art and rich storytelling combine in Sloane Leong's deeply emotional graphic novel about five girls on a basketball team shouldering different burdens and learning to carry them together.

The summer before ninth grade, Ren and Luna meet. They spend the season together, sharing their stories and secrets, and then Luna moves away. She never calls. Ren "stop[s] thinking about everything [Luna] told her." Then, in 10th grade, Luna transfers back, optimistic about reuniting with Ren. Except Ren's world didn't pause: her parents are separated, her dad struggles financially yet supports Ren's "jobless psycho" sister, and her friends face repeating sophomore year. Their best chance at extra credit is joining the new girls' basketball team.

Invested in a future playing basketball, Ren wants her ragtag team to succeed. Yet they don't always check their emotions at the sidelines. Jetta self-harms as a release from her mom's alcoholic husband; So-Young escapes her sister's shadow by chatting with strangers in online role-playing games; Nell skips class to work at her family's convenience store to the tune of her brothers' fat shaming. Luna is homesick yet seeks comfort in Ren's familiarity, but Ren hesitates to welcome Luna back in her heart when she fears being abandoned again. Increasing the pressure to perform is the boys' coach, who vilifies the girls as "a drain on the school and especially on the boys."

The team fights on the court for what they can't find in their private lives: a win. They hone complementary strengths, encouraging one another to improve. In admirable displays of solidarity, they protect and uplift each other, even in alarming situations. At the same time, Leong takes care not to misrepresent high school relationships as everlasting, never overselling the girls' bonds. While they learn to shelter in their mutual support and respect, not all of them are inseparable.

Leong's slice-of-life approach also allows for a more truthful representation of adolescence; not every conflict receives a clear resolution, alluding to the girls' continued evolution beyond the book's scope. Evocative art accentuates the story's multiple tones, with every backdrop colored like sunsets and sunrises, thereby elevating the atmosphere of magical summers come and gone, of endings and beginnings, of despair and hope.  Leong's clever use of panels makes scenes dynamic: suspended action in one panel carries the eye through the offstage transition to the next. She employs motion lines and onomatopoeia that feel organic rather than distracting, seamlessly creating the illusion of movement. Exaggerated bodily expressions and well-timed dramatics add the perfect balance of humor and conviviality.

Though the team may part ways in the future, the love and personal growth galvanized by their connection will endure. A sweeping portrait of camaraderie, A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong (Prism Stalker) reminds readers that simple kindness and understanding can go a long way in helping someone heal. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Shelf Talker: This coming-of-age graphic novel portrays the varying friendships between five girls on an underdog basketball team as they unite to overcome competitive odds and cope with personal demons.

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