Also published on this date: Wednesday, July 22, 2020: Maximum Shelf: Beyond Your Bubble

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 22, 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


NYC's Bluestockings Must Relocate

Bluestockings, the collectively owned radical bookstore, fair trade cafe and activist center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, is relocating. In a statement released yesterday, the Bluestockings Collective wrote that due to "so many unforeseen circumstances both pandemic-related and otherwise, we must leave our current location at 172 Allen St. in search of a new, more sustainable, accessible and safer home.

"This is not goodbye. This is 'wait for our new location announcement,' hopefully soon. The facts are: we have outgrown our space and we want features that better accommodate and center our disabled collective and community. We want ramps and bathrooms and ventilation and chair lifts! We are committed to realizing this for our future home!"

Noting that it wished the move could have been made on its own terms, the collective said "our decision has been forced by the demands of our landlord for more money and by their inaction on necessary repairs to the structural damage our wild little slice of space has endured over these last 21 years. With so much afire, we're evermore committed to doing all we can to keep this project alive and rooted at a physical space (such a rarity in NYC). We know our movements need spaces--to share and grow and learn and build alongside each other.

"It's going to be hard, and take a lot of work. But we're here for it. We humbly ask for your patience and continued support in the coming weeks and months as we relocate, store and continue our virtual programming."

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

'Save Lives AND Small Businesses: Mask Up!'

In early March, when Covid-19 was ramping up in several states, PPE shortages were front-page news and bookstores were going into lockdown, if you had been asked what one of the most controversial aspects of the battle against this pandemic would be, few respondents would have chosen "wearing of a face mask." And yet, as daily videos of customers pitching anti-mask fits in public venues have shown, this is the hill many people have, oddly enough, chosen to die on, figuratively and perhaps literally.  

For indie bookstores, it is one more challenge in an apparently endless series as they tentatively move toward opening their doors to customers again. And yet, as indies do, they are facing the challenge creatively and head on.

Patty Norman of Copperfield's Books, which has nine locations across Northern California, told us they "have had almost no push-back in our Petaluma location regarding masks. (Two of our stores in more touristy locations have, reportedly, had more challenges.) But the kids! The kids have been phenomenal. Wearing masks, without complaining, without having to be reminded. In our kids section, I occasionally have kids back up 10 feet away and at the count of three, we take our masks down and smile at each other for a count of two seconds. Just so we can all see smiles, and little kids can see the kids' bookseller unmasked....

"We wanted to reward kids for their great job following instructions, so we made fan-art buttons for kids to choose from as they leave the store. With apologies to illustrators everywhere, we have masked every character from Hilo to Peppa the Pig, along with random dinosaurs, dragons and unicorns. It's been fun--and most importantly, the kids love them."

Many indies are getting their mask-up message out on social media. Here's a brief sampling:

Well Read Books, Fulton, Mo.: "Wear a mask. Point blank. Period. Wear a mask in the shop the entire time you're here, and we'll give you 10% off your entire purchase. We shouldn't have to incentivize wearing a mask to protect yourself and others, but here we find ourselves. Wear the mask, get the discount, save a life. Now through the end of August. Maybe longer. We'll keep you posted. Oh, did we forget to mention, WEAR A FLIPPING MASK? Please."

Masked booksellers at Whitty Books

Whitty Books, Tulsa, Okla.: "We're very relieved that the city council passed a mask ordinance last night! We're eager to reopen, and with this ordinance now in place, we feel that we can take steps to do so safely. We're not ready to announce anything specific just yet, but we will keep you posted about our progress. Thank you to the city councilors that voted to protect the health and safety of Tulsans, and thank you to those of you that voiced your support to your councilors. This is overdue but a step in the right direction!"

Dancing Bear Toys and Gifts, Frederick, Md.: "Hey, friends! We're participating in a Mask Drive for Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick, MD students and we need your help! Our friend Mylz has a goal of collecting 500 child-sized masks by August 31 and we want to make sure he meets that goal. If you donate a mask, leave a comment below and we will select one person to win a $15 Dancing Bear gift card. You can drop-off mask donations (new and sealed in a plastic bag) at the Bear."

Green Apple Books and Music, San Francisco, Calif.: "Our Clement Street and Richmond businesses will only survive if EVERYONE wears a mask as directed. Save lives AND small businesses: mask up!" --Robert Gray

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

'Something Like a Fairytale Happened at My Bookstore'

In an unusual, moving letter that will accompany galleys of My Brilliant Life by Ae-ran Kim, translated by Chi-Young Kim (Forge, January 26, 2021), the author wrote:

My Korean publisher informed me who I would be addressing with this letter.

I agonized over what to write, thinking of recipients far away, and I decided to share with you, the booksellers of America, something written by a neighborhood bookstore owner in Korea.

Titled "Three Months of COVID-19 and the Transformation of a Bookstore Owner's Thoughts," this essay was printed in issue 512 of a Korean publishing magazine, Planning Meeting. The essay is written by Jeong Hyun-joo, the owner of Bookshop Lisbon, which had been in steady business for five years, confessing that the store was in the red for the first time. She writes about worries, difficulties, and fears of the coronavirus era. At this bookstore, they launched a program sending new books to monthly subscribers. And one day she receives a message from a subscriber:

"I live in the quarantined city of Daegu. I saw how excited my friend was to receive a book from your bookstore yesterday. I was only getting food delivered and worrying about how to get masks, and at first I was amazed that you could get books delivered during this time. Later, I found myself thrilled. Thanks to you, I saw my friend in good spirits for the first time in a while. Thank you."

Jeong started wondering what else a bookstore could do during the coronavirus era. She couldn't afford to send new books but she decided she could send used books and samples to Daegu, and put out a call on social media for people to sign up for free books; the store would pay the delivery fees. She only expected about twenty people to sign up, but soon she was getting pings every minute, so she posted another message, asking if her followers would donate books that she would send. I'm sharing a part of her essay with her permission, to best convey that time:

Not long after I posted, money came into my account. My family sent some cash to cover some delivery fees. With that amount I could send books to eighty people. Soon there were payments of 30,000 won and 50,000 won. When I looked at the names I realized that they were members of our bookshop reading room--the regulars who gather in the evening to read together. They had sent money into the account where they had been sending monthly membership fees, without saying a word about it to me. When I reached out, I was told: "I have family in Daegu, too. I want to help out." "I hear there are people asking for children's books. Please use my donation to deliver books to kids."

I cried a little reading the messages. It became clear in that moment why I hadn't been able to let go of the bookstore even during these difficult times. For me, the bookstore and the people who came to the bookstore, were my social and emotional safety net. Through their actions, my customers were telling me that the world isn't all bad, that there are quite a lot of good people out there, that I can keep believing in the goodwill of people.

I sent a thousand books to Daegu, to 160 people.

As I am not young, I know that goodwill doesn't always come back to you as goodwill. But something like a fairytale happened at my bookstore, all because there are people who love books.

I understand that an author is to introduce her book through this letter. But I thought it would be better to use this opportunity to relay this small, luminous anecdote to American booksellers. Of course, a miracle lasts a mere minute and beauty exists for a split second, but these moments come together to forge a life and to create memories. I learned this from people much better than me, and through so many books from around the world. I send my deepest gratitude to all of you guarding our collective "social and emotional safety net," both in the past and into the present day.

How Bookstores Are Coping: Limited Browsing, Safety Precautions

In Wayne, Pa., Main Point Books has reopened for limited browsing. Store owner Cathy Fiebach reported that only eight people are allowed in store at a time, including staff, and everyone must wear a face mask. Customers who wish to limit their exposure can sign up for private appointments, scheduled every day between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., or stick with online and phone orders.

Everyone who enters the store must use hand sanitizer or wear gloves, and there are disposable masks and gloves available. Fiebach and her team have added plastic shields at the counters and implemented hands-free credit card processing, including Google Pay and Apple Pay. The store now has an air filtration system and staff work stations have been spread out as much as possible to allow for social distancing.

Fiebach said reopening has been about as "stress-free" as it could be. There has been no resistance to wearing masks and while customers are eager to support the store, numbers have been manageable enough that Fiebach has not had to keep anyone out. Over the past four months, the amount of online, e-mail and phone orders that the store received has helped remind Fiebach and her staff how much the store means to the community. That support has been heartwarming and motivating at a time when "everything has felt overwhelming."

So far, she continued, she has decided not to get involved with her local business association's efforts to bring more traffic to the area. "I am not sure that is where we should be as a business community," she said. "The current status quo seems to be working for the moment."

On the subject of the protests against systemic racism and police brutality that began in May, Fiebach noted that while there were disruptions in Philadelphia, the local protests amounted to peaceful marches past the store. She added that her store, her staff and her customers support Black Lives Matter and, like other bookstores, Main Point saw a huge increase in demand for antiracist titles. How to Be an Antiracist will be the subject of the store's next nonfiction book group, and Fiebach and her team are working to get community members registered to vote.

"It feels like finally everyone is on the same page that things must change drastically, and conversations have been positive," Fiebach said.


Book Club in New York City reopened to customers on July 18. Co-owner Erin Neary explained that as a bookstore and bar, she and the Book Club team are trying to find creative ways to stay true to the store's concept while also making sure customers and staff are safe. They've taken advantage of the city's Open Restaurants program and built seating on the sidewalk, which will be permitted until at least October 31. They've also opened a rear reading garden with additional seating.

Store capacity is limited, and no in-store events are being held for the foreseeable future. There are hand sanitizing stations throughout the store and masks are required. All seating has been removed from the store's interior, and in the outdoor cafe space seating is six feet apart and drinks are served in to-go containers. Staff members sanitize surfaces frequently, and Neary noted that the store's accordion doors allow the space to get good ventilation. Generally speaking, she added, they've found New Yorkers to be very compliant with wearing masks and they have not encountered any resistance.

During protests in late May and early June, Neary reported, a significant number of businesses in Book Club's East Village neighborhood were damaged or broken into, but luckily the bookstore was not damaged. Said Neary: "We strive to be an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement through the promotion of important books on race and featuring BIPOC authors."


Harriett Logan, owner of Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, Ohio, said her store reopened for browsing on May 12. There is a maximum headcount for the store, face masks are required for customers and staff, and Logan and her team are still encouraging customers to opt for curbside pick-up. 

There are now acrylic guards at the check-out counter, tape on the floor to illustrate social distancing, and much of the store's seating has been removed. They've also removed one of the computers at the checkout counter, which has slowed things down a bit but has made the checkout area safer for staff. She added that she recently adopted a kitten, and while she would normally let customers know and bring the kitten into the store, she is worried about doing that now as it might prove to be too popular an attraction.

Logan said she and her team have seen very little outright resistance to masks, but plenty of laziness. They've had to remind many customers to pull their masks over their noses, and she noted that the store not only sells masks but will also provide masks to "jerks," if that proves necessary.

On Juneteeth, Loganberry Books held a fundraiser for Black Lives Matter Cleveland, raising over $1,000. In a nod to N.K. Jemisin, the store has declared August to be Black Future Month, and they will stage a "shelving demonstration" in their fiction room by highlighting novels by Black writers. In August the store will also host a Zoom seminar with scholar Dr. Monica Bell entitled "Confronting Policing as a Segregationist Tool and Imagining an Anti-Segregationist Future."--Alex Mutter


Image of the Day: The Smell of a Bookstore

Bookends and Beginnings, Evanston, Ill., hosted a two-part launch event for Miles Harvey's The King of Confidence. First, Harvey and his editor, Ben George from Little, Brown, talked about the writing of his book during the bookstore's weekly Literary Lunchbreak via Zoom. Then Harvey stopped by the store to do a masked signing. Owner Nina Barrett added, "Note big bottle of sanitizer on the table. That's what bookstores smell like now."

Video: Let's Play Books Owner Featured in Biden Campaign Ad

Kirsten Hess, owner of Let's Play Books, Emmaus, Pa., was one of three small business owners featured in a recent and compelling ad for Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

"A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a small round table discussion with Vice President Joe Biden in Philadelphia about how small businesses were coping with Covid-19," Hess recalled. "The following week the Biden team contacted me and asked if I was interested in participating in a commercial for Biden for President. That was a lot to weigh, as the last thing I want to do is alienate anyone from the bookstore--not because I don't want to lose business, but because being a place that welcomes EVERYONE is a key mission of my shop. I chose to say yes to the commercial because I do endorse Mr. Biden for President. I plan on sharing my reasons for that in an editorial soon.

"The filming took over 2 hrs--they filmed me as I watched various speeches President Trump has given. I laughed, cried, made faces, and seriously experienced all emotions. As I have said before, and many of my republican friends agree--I don't think there is a choice. However, we encourage conversation, respectful discussion, and reading well beyond the headlines on Twitter/FB or partisan news. I believe we must rally to ensure the continuation of democracy. The commercial is out, so I thought we would share it from our main page."

Cool T-Shirts and Totes of the Day

Books & Books, with stores in South Florida and the Cayman Islands, is running a merchandise fundraiser through August 8. All proceeds from the sale of store T-shirts and tote bags will go to the store.

The store wrote, "Thanks for all of the love that you have been showing us during these last few weeks by visiting our re-opened stores, eating in our outdoor courtyard, ordering delivery and curbside pick-up, shopping books online and purchasing gift cards. We are so grateful!

"If you're looking for new ways to support us during these difficult times, then check out our brand new T-Shirts and Totes!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mary Trump on the View

The View: Mary Trump, author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781982141462).

TV: Magpie Murders

PBS Masterpiece will co-produce and broadcast Magpie Murders, a six-part drama series based on Foyle's War creator Anthony Horowitz's bestselling novel, Deadline reported. Adapted by Horowitz for television, the project is produced by Jill Green and Eleventh Hour Films. A U.S. air date for the series, which is currently streaming on BritBox UK, has not been announced.

"Anthony Horowitz is a master mystery writer, and Magpie Murders is a beautiful and complex work," said Masterpiece executive producer Susanne Simpson. "Our Masterpiece audience will truly enjoy this intriguing story of a mystery within a mystery."

Horowitz added: "Magpie Murders is my most successful novel and it wasn't easy to adapt. But I think the result is a completely original drama that will delight and beguile audiences in equal measure."

Green called the series "an extraordinary and distinctive drama. I don't think there's ever been a crime show like it with a strong female lead treading the line between reality and fiction as she fights to uncover the truth."

Books & Authors

Awards: V&A Illustration, Readings Winners

Winners were announced for the 2020 V&A Illustration Awards, which celebrate "excellence in student illustration and three categories of contemporary practice: book cover design, book illustration and illustrated journalism." The prize money for each of the four awards categories is £3,000 (about $3,760), and the Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year Prize is worth an additional £5,000 (about $6,265). This year's winners include:

Book Cover: Eva Eland for When Sadness Comes to Call
Book Illustration: Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Hansel and Gretel: A Nightmare in Eight Scenes, written by Simon Armitage, art direction by Laurence Beck
Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year: Ann Kiernan
Illustrated Journalism: Ann Kiernan
Student Illustrator of the Year: Sally Dunne

V&A director Tristram Hunt said: "The V&A Illustration Awards celebrate outstanding creativity by working artists, who use the fierce power of illustration to illuminate all the complexity of contemporary human experience. The winning entries speak perfectly to the V&A's founding mission to support artists, embed design in everyday life, and showcase imaginative brilliance."


The Girl, the Cat & the Navigator by Matilda Woods has won the Readings Children's Book Prize 2020, founded by Readings in Melbourne, Australia, to "celebrate books that children and families will love, and to raise the profile of exciting emerging Australian authors."

Readings said this about the book: "Eleven-year-old Oona longs for adventures, but as a girl in Nordor--a town where houses are built from wood that comes from shipwrecks and sway as though still at sea--she must stay demurely at home while the men (including her sneering sea captain father) go out and hunt whales. Luckily, Oona is smart, daring and determined. She sets off to discover the legend, danger and mythical creatures of the icy north for herself.

"Reminiscent of a classic folktale, this versatile and beautifully packaged book features vivid illustrations from artist Anuska Allepuz. Woods is a gorgeous storyteller and her book will be eagerly devoured by independent readers, as well as being a perfect choice for a family read-aloud."

Reading with... Amy Poeppel

photo: George Baier

Amy Poeppel, author of Small Admissions and Limelight, lives in New York City and Frankfurt, Germany. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Rumpus, Belladonna Comedy and Working Mother. Her novel Musical Chairs was just published by Emily Bestler Books.

On your nightstand now:

I'm about to start reading Candice Carty-Williams's Queenie, which was recommended to me by a librarian friend. (If you aren't good friends with a librarian, you don't know what you're missing.) I recently finished Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Inheritance by Dani Shapiro and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett and loved them all. I'm a huge fan of complicated family stories. I'm currently reading The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Frances books (Bread and Jam for Frances, A Birthday for Frances, Best Friends for Frances...), written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Lillian Hoban, were my favorite picture books when I was young. They have so much humor in them.

Later, when I graduated to chapter books, I read The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder dozens of times. I'm not sure why that book appealed to me so much, but I think it prepared me well for quarantine.

Your top five authors:

For many different reasons--from beautiful writing to memorable characters to complicated family dynamics to laugh-out-loud humor--I love reading Jesmyn Ward, Toni Morrison, Elinor Lipman, Stephen McCauley and Tom Robbins.

Book you've faked reading:

I was a pretty unmotivated high school student, so I'm sure I (unsuccessfully) faked reading a few books back then, although I don't remember which ones. There are so many books I'm ashamed that I haven't read, but I'm comfortable admitting it because there's still time! For example, I'm mortified not to have (yet) read The Underground Railroad, Moby-Dick, Buddenbrooks, Educated, Homegoing, Othello and The Brothers Karamazov, to name only a few.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I am forever recommending Beloved by Toni Morrison. I taught this book to high school students, and with each reading, I saw something new, some beautiful phrase that took my breath away. Beloved taught me more about humanity and history than anything else I've ever read.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I already owned Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, but I had to buy it again when I saw the marvelous Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition--the cover is illustrated by the brilliant and hilarious Roz Chast.

Book you hid from your parents:

Forever by Judy Blume. I can remember with horror the moment when my mother found it. She was shocked, but I loved that book and learned a lot from it about love, sex and teenage relationships.

Book that changed your life:

I'll have to go with Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons. When I was getting my Master's in Teaching degree, I did my practicum at Concord Carlisle High School and was looking for a book to give to a student who told me he hated reading. I asked my advisor Mary Leonhardt, veteran English teacher and author of 99 Ways to Get Kids to Love Reading, for help and she suggested Ellen Foster, which I read in a day. When I gave it to the student, he finished it over the weekend and came enthusiastically to my desk, asking for another book recommendation. Ellen Foster made me appreciate the power of first-person narration, the way a good story can hook even a reluctant reader, and how certain characters stay with you for long after you put the book down. I have recommended Ellen Foster to countless people over the years.

Favorite line from a book:

From Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist:

"She lowered her head to the grocery bag she held and she breathed in. She said, 'Don't you love the smell of brown paper bags filled with raw vegetables?'

" 'I like it very much,' I said. Trying to stay on an even keel but feeling a lot of love for her and wanting to lie down on the sidewalk as a result."

That image does me in every time.

Five books you'll never part with:

My copy of the Norton Anthology of Poetry that I got in college.

Katherine by Anya Seton because my grandmother gave it to me, and it sparked my love of historical fiction.

My tattered, highlighted copy of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing because I met my husband when we were cast in that play together.

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner because I love an engrossing family saga, and I remember my mother reading it.

My worn copy of Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons because it made me want to be a writer.

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

A Secret History by Donna Tartt because of the way the story unfolds. It's a suspenseful and thrilling read.

Book Review

Children's Review: Hot Pot Night!

Hot Pot Night! by Vincent Chen (Charlesbridge, $16.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 3-7, 9781623541200, September 8, 2020)

"What's for dinner?" is an end-of-day call to action in homes everywhere. Debut author/illustrator Vincent Chen answers with Hot Pot Night!, a toothsome treat that gathers family, friends and neighbors for what will be an evening of delectable communal dining.

As the residents of an apartment building return home, thoughts turn to an evening meal. For one young man, his refrigerator doesn't have much to offer. An older woman sits alone. A daughter queries her mother, who seems to have run out of satisfying ideas. As the hungry lean out of windows, not quite sure how to quell the pangs, a boy shouts out for all to hear, "Let's have hot pot!"

Apartment by apartment, the neighbors assemble, each bringing a necessary component. The boy (and his adorable puppy) offers the electrical cooking pot. Mother and daughter provide the broth. The older woman contributes stacks of meat. The young man arrives with a smorgasbord of fresh veggies. Everyone takes turns preparing--boiling the broth, washing and chopping the ingredients, adding the meat. The anticipation is well worth the results, as spoons, chopsticks and bowls sate the brood with "hot pot, hot pot, tasty hot pot" until all that's left is the promise of future gatherings for more hot pot to come.

Rhode Island School of Design-trained Chen creates a diverse community with characters of various ages, ethnic backgrounds and familial units. His short and rhythmic text invites even the youngest readers to join in. "Hot pot," Chen explains at book's end, "is a Chinese soup that literally brings people together and encourages them to share." Adding his mother's recipe further encourages participation--with the added caution to "always cook with an adult." He reveals his own love of sharing hot pot with family and friends "ever since he was a kid," with fatty pork belly as his favorite hot pot ingredient.

Chen's digitally rendered pages, presented predominantly in a palette of golds, oranges and browns, seem to reflect the fading light outside, while beckoning audiences into brighter cozy spaces inside, where friends gather, appetites grow and hot pot entices. As arms reach toward the ready feast, Chen cleverly zooms above for a birds-eye view, turning the text on the side, presenting a well-laden table of diners, dips, dishes and an oversized pot brimming with happy deliciousness. The cooperation doesn't end with empty bowls, as the satiated group ensures clean-up also remains a communal event. Warm and welcoming, Hot Pot Night! proves to be a nourishing experience for bellies and hearts alike. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Neighbors and friends gather together, combining myriad ingredients to share an abundant, nourishing feast on Hot Pot Night!.

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