Also published on this date: Wednesday, July 15, 2020: Maximum Shelf: Everything is Spiritual

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 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

Quotation of the Day

'Bookshops Have Been a Bellwether Measure During this Crisis'

"Bookshops have been a bellwether measure during this crisis. The media hunger for information on the recovery of bookshops has been insatiable, and the outpouring of affection for bookshops as they re-open extremely moving. Bookshops stand as emblems for the prospects for the high street as we edge our way to a tentative new reality and the appropriate balance between public health and essential economic activity.

"And yet, and yet, the potential longer term damage done to bookselling by this crisis should not be quietly pushed to one side, as if re-opening bookshops is all that's required. We all need to pay very close attention to what high street bookselling needs. And by all, I mean the government, local authorities, the trade--particularly the larger corporate publishers--the media, consumers, and trade organizations. We need to ensure high street bookselling survives this period renewed and not mortally wounded.... More than anything, though, we must as a trade look to our bookshops as the jewel in our crown and do all we can, structurally, emotionally and commercially, to ensure their survival and their recovery."

--Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland, in a column for the Bookseller headlined "Why the survival of bookshops must matter to us all"

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


For Sale: Vt.'s Bridgeside Books

Bridgeside Books, Waterbury, Vt., has been put up for sale. In a Facebook post yesterday, owner Hiata DeFeo noted that the bookshop is not closing and will continue to operate as normal while a new owner is sought.

"Have you ever dreamed of owning a bookstore?" DeFeo wrote. "Bridgeside Books is FOR SALE! After ELEVEN amazing, rewarding, fulfilling years it is time to move on to the next chapter. As you all know, Bridgeside Books is FULL of magic and has grown into a fixture in the heart of Waterbury. Your ongoing support has sustained this dream of mine and now that the shop is for sale, I'm hoping you or someone/s you know may be interested in being the next owner of Bridgeside Books, and see it remain in the core of the community."

DeFeo added that the "decision to sell has not been made lightly, and had been in the works PRIOR to Covid-19 turning the world upside down." She invited "serious inquiries only" to contact her at

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

Colson Whitehead Wins Library of Congress American Fiction Prize

Colson Whitehead
(photo: Chris Close)

Colson Whitehead will receive the 2020 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, which honors an American literary writer whose body of work "is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination"; and "seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that--throughout long, consistently accomplished careers--have told us something essential about the American experience."

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden selected Whitehead--who, at 50, is the youngest person to receive the Library's fiction award for his lifetime of work--as this year's winner based on nominations from more than 60 distinguished literary figures, including former winners of the prize, acclaimed authors and literary critics from around the world. The prize ceremony will take place online during the National Book Festival in September.

"Colson Whitehead's work is informed by probing insights into the human condition and empathy for those who struggle with life's sometimes harrowing vicissitudes," Hayden said. "In novels such as The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad, he has expanded the scope of historical events, transforming them into metaphors for today's world."

Whitehead commented: "As a kid, I'd walk into great New York City libraries like the Schomburg and the Mid-Manhattan, on a field trip or for a school assignment, and feel this deep sense of awe, as if I'd stumbled into a sacred pocket in the city. I hope that right now there's a young kid who looks like me, who sees the Library of Congress recognize Black artists and feels encouraged to pursue their own vision and find their own sacred spaces of inspiration."

Whitehead has published seven novels, including The Nickel Boys, which won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; The Underground Railroad, winner of the National Book Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer; The Intuitionist; John Henry Days; Apex Hides the Hurt; Sag Harbor and Zone One. His nonfiction books are The Colossus of New York and The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death.

On Thursday, July 16, Whitehead will join Hayden in a conversation on race in the U.S. Part of a video series called Hear You, Hear Me, the conversation will be available at 7 p.m. on the Library's Facebook and YouTube channels and at

How Bookstores Are Coping: Socially Distanced, Masked Customers Return to Stores

Kyle Hall, general manager and partner of Interabang Books in Dallas, Tex., reported that the store reopened fully on May 1. A week earlier, the store had opened for curbside pick-up and window shopping after being closed for one month. 

There are social-distancing markers in front of the registers, where Hall and the team thought customers would be most likely to "bunch up." They reconfigured the children's area to make it more open and less of a nook by moving a couple of cases into the store's events space, which is of course not being used at the moment. Hall explained that the size of the store allows for visibility of the entire space and bookcases are low enough for adults to see over, so nobody will encounter another shopper by surprise. And for anyone who is still apprehensive about shopping in-store, Interabang is still offering shipping and curbside pick-up.

Masks are required now in Dallas, Hall continued, and in the previous two months fewer than a dozen customers refused to comply. The store asked customers to wear masks after reopening in May, and Interabang has offered free masks to those who have not brought their own. Most everybody, though, has been prepared and good-natured. When the store posted on social media about its new policy, he added, there was a "chorus of thank-yous and likes."


On the Big Island of Hawaii, Kona Stories Book Store reopened for browsing on May 7. Co-owner Brenda McConnell reported that everyone must wear masks in store and remain at least six feet apart, and hand sanitizer is available at the door and at check-out. No more than 10 people are allowed in store at a time and the store isn't holding any events, including book clubs, storytime sessions and author talks.

McConnell added that because so few people are shopping in person currently, she has not had to make any changes like removing displays or rearranging fixtures. She has only had to make sure that no more than 10 people are inside, but even that has not been much of an issue. There has been a large uptick in online sales and curbside pick-up, but sales are still down significantly, mostly because of canceled events.

She is trying to make do with virtual events and is working hard with local authors to create an online presence for their work. This includes a new section in the store's weekly newsletter highlighting an author; more social media posts about new titles; and even a YouTube channel where authors can post videos promoting their work. And, not wanting to leave children out of it, McConnell has asked community members to come in and read aloud some of their favorite children's books. Those sessions are recorded and posted on the store's YouTube channel.

Her community is very mask compliant, she said, and a local author who is also a physician brought in a box of masks to give out to customers who forget their own, though most everyone comes prepared. Kona Stories also sells masks made with Hawaiiana fabric that are sewn by a local woman, and they've been very popular.

Anyone traveling to Hawaii must quarantine for 14 days before moving around the island, McConnell continued, which has all but killed tourist travel, which is Hawaii's largest industry.

The current restrictions will be in place until at least September 1, and McConnell said at this point she is struggling with what to do about orders for the fall and winter season. Usually, that is the busiest time of year for tourists and she orders plenty of toys, games and Hawaiiana gifts. Now it is almost impossible to tell if the demand or interest will be there.

Kona Stories was closed from March 24 to May 7. During that time the store launched an education drive. Community members donate money that Kona Stories would use to provide educational materials to at-risk children who were not in school due to the pandemic. All told, the drive raised more than $12,000.


In St. Petersburg, Fla., Tombolo Books has opened for appointment shopping, owner Alsace Walentine reported. Appointment hours are limited and the store is open six days per week. Four shoppers are allowed in at a time for 45-minute appointments, which Walentine said leaves more than enough room for social distancing and plenty of time to disinfect the shopping area between appointments. Appointment shopping, she added, has been "going very well," and she's received great responses from customers. Curbside pick-up and local delivery are also still available.

There is yellow tape on the floor to illustrate proper social distancing, and some chairs have been removed from the sales floor to open up aisles. Shoppers use hand sanitizer when they enter for the appointment, and there are new staff protocols for frequently cleaning door handles, work stations, PIN pads and more. And everyone in the store, staff and shoppers, must wear masks.

In general, Walentine continued, locals have been very supportive and appreciative of the store's efforts to make shopping there as safe as possible. Only a very few customers have expressed hesitation about or resistance to wearing a face mask.

After protests began in late May following the murder of George Floyd, St. Petersburg has seen ongoing marches and demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Like many bookstores, Walentine said, Tombolo saw a sharp uptick in orders of antiracist and social justice-related titles in June. The store has also started an antiracism book club. Profits from the book club will be shared with local Black organizations.

International Update: French Book Week; U.K. Booksellers Relieved, Concerned

Literally Swiss, the European Literature Network and Pro Helvetia have joined forces to launch the inaugural French Book Week. The online forum, running July 13-17, is dedicated to French literature, translation and publishing in the U.K. The event's aim is to be "all-embracing and also to focus on the lesser known French literatures, integrating them into an online community for all French writers, translators, readers and publishers."

Each day is featuring a different theme: Authors' Monday, Translators' Tuesday, Reviewers' Wednesday (with a heads-up on some untranslated debuts), Poets' Thursday and Publishers' Friday. The culmination will be the first ever online Swiss Publishing Seminar on Friday. Hosted by Publishers Without Borders, the event features leading publishers from the U.K. and Switzerland discussing "the pain and pleasure of translation and publishing from a small multilingual country."

Events are accessible via social media, using the hashtag #FrenchBookWeek, with content ranging from live and recorded interviews, seminars, authored pieces, podcasts, original commissioned postgrad research, reviews and showcases.

"This is the time for big ideas," said Rosie Goldsmith, founder of French Book Week and director of European Literature and Literally Swiss. "In the translated book world our funds, festivals, publications and book sales are in jeopardy. We must come together with new and original ways of collaborating. My love of French language and literature, its many shapes, forms and origins, is my starting point."


In the U.K., booksellers are expressing relief to be physically open again, reporting "steady" trade since reopenings began last month with strong local support, but "challenges in the current economic climate persist, with footfall down, with customers acclimatizing to the new safety precautions," the Bookseller reported.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today program, Waterstones managing director James Daunt said: "We're finding our county town high street shops are performing very well, people seem to be comfortable shopping in those, but definitely not travelling into the city centers.... We're certainly ourselves seeing with every week an improvement in our trade."

Hazel Broadfoot, manager of Village Books in Dulwich, told the Bookseller: "We've had a very positive response from our local community who are delighted to be able to browse in a bookshop again. People are being responsible and understanding about our safety measures so no problems to report so far. Sales are very brisk, after an initial surge they've settled to a level that sees us well up on the same period last year. Despite publication dates shifting there are actually a lot of really good books out at the moment which is great. I think we're benefitting from lots of people still working at home and shopping locally."

The Bookseller noted that even though most vendors it spoke to "were optimistic about sales returning to their former levels, some were worried about the lasting effects of the safety precautions laid out by the government and advised by the BA."

Georgia Eckert, owner of Imagined Things in Harrogate, said, "I think customers that are coming in on average are spending less time, but are more certain about what they want than pre-pandemic times, and many don't want to spend too long lingering in shops. I think this actually has its benefits as a retailer, as browsing without buying obviously isn't as good for business, and I think less browsing and more decisions being made is good for us. Obviously generally it is quieter than usual--some of our customers and shielding, isolating or not wanting to come shopping yet.... I think the uncertainty of everything is affecting everyone, including our customers--though we are delighted by all who have supported us remotely during lockdown and now, and those who are now happy to come and see us, it's been amazing to have them back."


Image of the Day: Crooked Hallelujah at New Dominion Bookshop

Kelli Jo Ford stopped by New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, Va., to sign copies of her novel Crooked Hallelujah, just published by Grove Press. New Dominion is open for phone and e-mail orders and is offering curbside pickup and local delivery.

Vermont Book Shop: 'You Can’t Get There from Here'

Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, Vt., shared a photo of an additional challenge added to the bookshop's list this week, posting on Facebook: "You can’t get there from here. Yup. Both bridges are out, Main Street closed to traffic conveniently, or inconveniently, right at Mill Street, so you can still hang a left and get to @thestonemillvt Phew.... Our storefront at 38 Main Street, remains closed. Please do order books online from us, or shop our market in the Stone Mill! Happy construction!!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tiffany Cross on the View

The View: Tiffany Cross, author of Say It Louder!: Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy (Amistad, $23.99, 9780062976772).

Tonight Show: Jim Carrey, co-author of Memoirs and Misinformation: A Novel (Knopf, $27.95, 9780525655978).

TV: Mrs. Everything

Sister Pictures has optioned Jennifer Weiner's bestselling novel Mrs. Everything and will adapt the book for TV, Deadline reported. Weiner, Carla Hacken for Paper Pictures, and Kate Fenske for Sister will be executive producers on the series, which is set during the 1950s in Detroit, where Jo and Bethie Kaufman "are sisters who, as their lives unfold against the backdrop of Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and women's liberation, find themselves struggling to honor their unique truths versus pleasing the world."

Books & Authors

Awards: Little Rebels Shortlist; Read Russia Longlist

A shortlist has been released for the 2020 Little Rebels Award, which is given by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers to celebrate children's fiction that "challenges stereotypes, promotes social justice and advocates for a more peaceful and fairer world." The prize is administered by Letterbox Library and Housmans Bookshop. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Sneaky Beak by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Tony Neal
The Closest Thing to Flying by Gill Lewis
The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter, illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring
The Little Island by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Robert Starling
King Leonard's Teddy by Phoebe Swan
Now or Never--A Dunkirk Story by Bali Rai


A longlist of 20 titles has been released for to 2020 Read Russia Prize, which is awarded every two years for works of Russian literature published in new English translations. The winners will receive an award of up to $10,000, divided at the discretion of the prize jury between the translators of the work and the English-language publishing houses. Check out the complete longlist here.

Reading with... Rory Power

photo: Henriette Lazaridis

Rory Power grew up in New England and went on to earn an M.A. in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia. Power now works as an editor of crime fiction and a story consultant for television and is the author of Wilder Girls and Burn Our Bodies Down, out now from Delacorte.

On your nightstand now:

The Ottolenghi Simple cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, which I'm leafing through every night for inspiration, and The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie, which takes a risk with a point of view that I'm completely in love with.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Mossflower by Brian Jacques. I was obsessed with pretty much every Redwall book but a stoic, troubled hero recovering from a tragedy opposite a mad queen really had me hooked.

Your top five authors:

Edward St. Aubyn, for his impeccable voice and humor.

Nova Ren Suma, for the way she gives complicated girls space to grow.

Ali Smith, for the first sentence of Hotel World, which broke my brain in half.

N.K. Jemisin, for the Broken Earth trilogy, which is a must read.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, for the way his work is intricate and expansive in a way that never feels overwhelming.

Book you've faked reading:

It's cliché, but Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I tried. I really did.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman. She treats her characters with such respect and care, and their emotional arcs feel so fully realized.

Book you've bought for the cover:

At least 70% of my book purchases are cover buys, but a favorite is See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt, which is beautifully odd inside and out.

Book you hid from your parents:

Nothing as a child, as I was incredibly lucky to grow up with parents who encouraged me to read whatever I wanted and pretty much left me to it, but as an adult I have hidden my uncracked copy of Dickens's Bleak House from my mother, the Dickens scholar, to whom I have pretended to have read it for coming up on 15 years.

Book that changed your life:

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I'd written a first draft of my debut novel, Wilder Girls, that was an absolute mess and I had no idea what to do with it. Then I was handsold Annihilation at the Manhattan indie Three Lives & Company. I read it and realized I was allowed to focus my own work only on exactly what I cared about, which I hadn't quite figured out yet.

Favorite line from a book:

"There's something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls," from Dare Me by Megan Abbott. I saw this floating around the internet (okay, specifically Tumblr) in college, and it introduced me to Abbott's work, which I absolutely adore. I think she's so spot on with this line, both in how teenage girls can often feel and in how they're perceived by the world around them.

Five books you'll never part with:

My old paperback of Jane Eyre, which is creased to all hell from all of my rereads.

HHhH by Laurent Binet, which was given to me by an old boss, and which asks questions about historical fiction and about what we can consider true in such a poignant way.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. It's the script of a play but I'll argue that it counts and encourage everyone who can to read it. Comforting and melancholy and the most gorgeous thing.

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford, the first book to introduce me to narrative nonfiction, and one of a handful of books that made me feel very accomplished when Gilmore Girls referenced them after I'd already read them.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, which packs more power into its handful of pages than I could ever have anticipated.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I never saw the ending coming, and it utterly wrecked me.

Book Review

YA Review: Elatsoe

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, illus. by Rovina Cai (Levine Querido, $18.99 hardcover, 368p., ages 12-up, 9781646140053, August 25, 2020)

Darcie Little Badger's YA debut, Elatsoe, is a supernatural murder mystery that takes place in a United States that has Fairy Ring Transportation Centers, endless fields of scarecrows with human eyes, ghost mammoths and a rich history of Lipan Apache ghost whisperers. Creative and meticulously plotted, Elatsoe begins with the protagonist and readers knowing whodunnit--it's the why that is the question.

When Elatsoe's ghost dog, Kirby, throws a fit, she knows something is very wrong. The last time Kirby acted like this, Ellie's grandfather was having a heart attack. Scared something has happened to her parents, Ellie races into town to find them at the movie theater. When they emerge unscathed, she breathes a sigh of relief--until both parents discover several missed calls from her mother's brother. Ellie's cousin, Trevor, was in a fatal car accident.

That night Ellie, whose "family secret" is the knowledge of how to bring back the dead, dreams of Trevor. "A person's last breath carrie[s] them to the underworld. Perhaps, with that breath, they could speak a last message." Trevor does exactly that: "A man named Abe Allerton murdered me," he tells Ellie. "Don't let Abe hurt my family," he pleads. Ellie's mother and father believe that Ellie is as powerful as her Six-Great-Grandmother who traveled Lipan Apache territory saving her people from undead evils, dangerous creatures and deadly settlers. Knowing the strength of his daughter's gift, Ellie's father agrees to help her investigate. With the assistance of her parents and her good friend and Lord Oberon descendant, Jay, Ellie takes a trip across Texas to find Abe Allerton and bring him to justice.

Little Badger excellently balances humor and horror in this inventive YA mystery/alternate history/fantasy. Ellie is a very likable protagonist who reads like an authentic teen: she is witty but not unrealistically so; she is powerful but not always aware of the devastation she could accidentally cause, and her asexuality is simply part of who she is rather than a plot point. Additionally, her Lipan heritage and ethnicity is not just twined with the story, it is the story: her gift comes from Six-Great-Grandmother; she's vocal about the contemporary racism toward and mistreatment of Indigenous people; she is always prepared to deal with what her brown skin might mean in any situation; and she has a pretty ingenious way of dispelling vampires. Each chapter begins with the graceful, almost ethereal black-and-white illustrations of And the Ocean Was Our Sky artist Rovina Cai, adding to the evanescent vibe of the book, a Lipan Apache Sookie Stackhouse for the teen set. One hopes Ellie--and the wonderfully developed world in which she lives--will appear in many more books to come. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: A Lipan Apache teen with the ability to raise ghosts travels across Texas to bring the man who killed her cousin to justice.

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