Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, August 4, 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


11 Book Associations, Including ABA, BISG, IBPA, Partner on Health Insurance

Eleven book industry associations have launched the Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP), an alliance with Lighthouse Insurance Group (LIG) Solutions that is designed to provide members of the associations a choice of health insurance options. These include ACA-compliant major medical, Medicare/supplements, short term policies, vision, dental, critical care and supplemental coverage, as well as small group/Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs).

The associations include the American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Authors Guild, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Western Writers of America.

The plan offers coverage to a wide group of people, including association staff and their immediate families; individual members and their immediate families; business owners and their W-2 employees; 1099 employees/independent contractors; and association volunteers.

BIHIP was established in April 2018 during a meeting of the Book Industry Study Group's Association Advisory Council (BAAC), a gathering of various associations serving many parts of the book publishing industry. During the 2018 meeting, Kent Watson, then executive director of PubWest, proposed that BAAC evaluate the feasibility of providing healthcare coverage to the various associations' members. BAAC chair Angela Bole, CEO of the Independent Book Publishers Association, took on the challenge, gathering a group that at times included more than 20 associations.

Because of the complexity of healthcare in the U.S., a lot of work has been necessary to come up with a plan, participants reported. For more than two years, BIHIP collaborated to evaluate alternatives, seek out options and potential partners, and create a final agreement that would provide members of BIHIP with the extensive knowledge of the health insurance market needed to help them navigate the array of insurance options. On June 10, 10 associations finalized the agreement with LIG Solutions with a launch date planned for later in the summer. Since then, Romance Writers of America has joined the coalition.

Participants in the process noted that the effort has worked out well despite significant differences between the associations, some of which are made up of individual members, while others represent smaller companies. In addition, the creation of BIHIP showed that by working together and collaboratively and with dedicated leadership, the book industry can tackle big problems even when it takes several years.

The Book Industry Study Group serves as principal point of contact on behalf of all for communications with LIG regarding the partnership. For more information, contact BISG executive director Brian O'Leary via e-mail or reach all coalition members directly via e-mail.

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

New B&N in Rockville, Md., Opening Tomorrow

Tomorrow Barnes & Noble is opening its new location in Rockville, Md., in Congressional Plaza, following a move from its former location at the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center, a mile away, Bethesda magazine reported.

The new store has 13,000 square feet of space and includes "book rooms" intended to make the shopping experience more "intuitive and enjoyable" by organizing books by genre. The children's section will be arranged by reading age. The store also has a café, which for now will offer only takeout service because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new B&N will require everyone to wear face masks and maintain six feet of social distancing. Staff will have regular temperature checks. Registers have protective barriers, and the store is offering curbside and pick-up service.

Congressional Plaza is across from a Metro station and was renovated in 2017. It includes several restaurants and boutiques.

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

Kramerbooks Staying in Dupont Circle 'at Least Three More Years'

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café "will stay in its current location for at least three more years," the Washington Post reported, adding that the announcement by owner Steve Salis may ease "the wave of grief and nostalgia that swept through the neighborhood after he had earlier announced his intent to move the store" out of Dupont Circle, where it has been since 1976.

"We are not imminently leaving tomorrow. We will most likely be there for six years, and just to be clear, that is when our lease ends. But we will leave no sooner than three years," said Salis, adding that despite the reports in May, he never planned to leave the current location this year.

What has changed is his short-term vision for the store, "thanks in part to the outpouring of support for Kramerbooks after fears that it would soon disappear from Dupont," the Post noted. 

"It really just hit me like wow," he said. "I got to a place where I said, 'We need to do something because when people come back, I want them to feel a sense of excitement and rejuvenation.' "

His decision to proceed with modest renovations is also motivated by updates to a long-drawn-out legal battle and sputtering business amid the pandemic, the Post wrote. Salis and the landlord, Pete Hiotis with Cadence Management, recently settled their dispute and established parameters for renovations, which are now underway and "will rebrand the restaurant and bar and add a breakfast bar, inspired by what had been a Kramer's staple in the early 1980s.... Later this year, Salis plans to introduce a flower and plant shop in the northern building and a barbershop to fill an upstairs space previously used for private events," the Post wrote.

He is also exploring options to expand Kramerbooks to other locations across the District. "We are talking to people and schematically looking at places with the intention of doing something," he said, adding that he would make sure to maintain the "quirky" spirit of the store in all renovations and potential moves.

Black Bond Books Moves, Expands Semiahmoo Mall Store

Canadian bookseller Black Bond Books has moved its Semiahmoo Mall store in South Surrey, B.C., to a 2,000-square-foot space within the mall, expanding its footprint by 500 square feet. The store reopened Saturday "after a grueling week of moving down the mall," according to Cathy Jesson, owner of Black Bond Books and Book Warehouse.

"Amid all the gloom and uncertainty, opportunity knocked," she said. "We were offered a beautiful larger location for the same rent. The result is fabulous. I continue to think bookstores are a coveted tenant for landlords. Use this to your advantage during this time. Our customers are so supportive and the feeling of localism has never been stronger. I wish us all success in these very tough times."

Jesson is also one of the 12 booksellers comprising the founding board of the new Canadian Independent Booksellers Association, which she described as "one of the best things that I have been part of in years. An amazing, thoughtful group led by Doug Minett. Without Doug, I doubt it would have become a reality. Doug had recently retired and offered his boundless energy and knowledge to our cause. I love that the board covers Canada coast to coast. I look forward to Canadian indies having a voice."

Looking to the future in uncertain times, Jesson observed: "I thought I had seen it all in my 40-plus years as a bookseller/entrepreneur. Clearly I had not. It has been amazing to see how much value book buyers see in their neighborhood bookstore. We hear all the time the worry for our survival. For now, for us, we are feeling cautiously optimistic."

Bill & Rosa's Book Room Reopens in Paris

Bill & Rosa's Book Room, a new and used English-language bookstore, has reopened in Paris, France. Owners John and Lisa Vanden Bos are Americans who have lived in Paris since 1988. They are the owners of FUSAC, a website and brand that serves the city's English-speaking community. 

Their 260-square-foot store opened in February and is located in FUSAC's downstairs space. The Book Room had to close in March because of the pandemic, but has since reopened for business three days per week.

The bookstore carries books in a variety of genres, including history, biographies, science fiction, mysteries and literary fiction. There are plenty of books focused on Paris and children's books in both French and English. While the majority of the store's inventory is donated, it carries new books as well.

Bill & Rosa's also features a 500-volume lending library. About 10 years ago, the owners explained, a dear friend of theirs died. She was a French woman who loved to read in English, and after her death, her son gave all of her English-language books to John and Lisa. They wanted to keep those books in her memory, but also let others enjoy them. That donated collection became the heart of the Sylvie and Henry Noullet Lending Library. Borrowers can become members for €20 (about $23.50) annually and take out two books at a time. They also receive discounts on store purchases.

The store's sideline offerings include greeting cards, postcards and gift bags. While the owners have no concrete plans for hosting events at the moment, that may change depending on how things go with the pandemic. Some potential ideas include book groups, author talks, documentary presentations and knitting circles. Noted John Vanden Bos: "People certainly ask about events--it seems to be the first thing on everyone's mind."

The couple had the idea to open a bookstore last summer while they were visiting the U.S. They already had the extra space, and given that there aren't any other English-language bookstores in their area of Paris it seemed like a good idea. They said, "We are not booksellers, we are just John and Lisa with a little idea."


Zachary Goss, Mark William Pearson Form Illustrated Books Rep Group

Former Artbook | D.A.P. house reps Zachary Goss and Mark William Pearson have ventured on their own, forming a rep group specializing in illustrated books to the trade. Independent Study represents Phaidon, ACC Art Books, Artbook | D.A.P., and Idea Books / Amsterdam to bookstores, museums, and specialty accounts throughout the East Coast and South.

Zach Goss previously served as assistant book buyer and children's buyer at Museum of Fine Arts Boston for more than two decades. Mark William Pearson was formerly a career indie bookseller, spanning 20 years as events director for Barabara's Bookstore, Chicago, and events director and buyer for Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Mass.

Their territories remain unchanged: New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and South.

Personnel Changes at Yale University Press; Graywolf Press

At Yale University Press:

Stephen Cebik, formerly assistant sales director, has been promoted to assistant sales director, head of digital and art sales.

Nick Geller, formerly publishing assistant, has been promoted to art book distribution partner coordinator.


At Graywolf Press:

Morgan LaRocca has been promoted to publicity associate.

Shaina Robinson has joined Graywolf Press as marketing and events assistant. She was previously the 2019-2020 Citizen Literary Fellow.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jeffrey Toobin on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Jeffrey Toobin, author of True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump (Doubleday, $30, 9780385536738).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Mike Birbiglia, author of The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad (Grand Central, $28, 9781538701515).

TV: Song of the Sun God

Oscar-nominated writer Olivia Hetreed (Girl with a Pearl Earring) will adapt Shankari Chandran's Song of the Sun God into a six-part series for Synchronicity Films and Australia's Dragonet Films, Deadline reported.

Chandran, who will consult on the series, said: "It was vital to me to collaborate with a screenwriter who could stand where I stand, and tell of other worlds that are orientated around a different but equally important center of gravity. Olivia Hetreed's exceptional writing and her lived experience give her that deep empathy and insight."

"Song of the Sun God is a poignant, timely and deeply moving story of a conflict largely unexplored on screen, and in this case as seen through the prism of one family," said Synchronicity managing director Claire Mundell. Karen Radzyner, a partner at Dragonet added: "The power of the book is not only in the intimacy with which it handles big, topical themes of prejudice and belonging, but in the laughter and tears it generates."

Books & Authors

Awards: Gordon Burn Shortlist

Finalists have been named for the £5,000 (about $6,265) Gordon Burn Prize, which "recognizes the year’s boldest, most ambitious and uncompromising work." The award is run in partnership by the Gordon Burn Trust, New Writing North, Faber & Faber and the Durham Book Festival. The winner will be named October 15 at a digital event during the festival. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Notes Made While Falling by Jenn Ashworth
Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
Motherwell by Deborah Orr
This Is Not Propaganda by Peter Pomerantsev
My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Isabel Wilkerson: A Portal to Understanding

photo: Joe Henson

Isabel Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1994 for her work as Chicago bureau chief for the New York Times, and was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2016. Her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, among many other awards. She has taught at Princeton, Emory and Boston Universities and has lectured widely. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents will be published by Random House on August 11.

You very naturally and quickly inserted material related to the pandemic in this book. How do you handle that kind of lightness on your toes?

This book is so far-ranging: three continents, three cultures, the manifestations of the artificial hierarchies that caused so much tragedy in all three. The breadth and the scope of the research was just overwhelming. To build this story meant going into so many different aspects of life, to show how it affects all of us to one degree or another as we find ourselves entrapped in a caste system that we did not ask to be in. I was constantly adding, down to the wire. And then Covid-19 became an ever-present reality in the lives of Americans, and I had to figure out where it could go. It's been an extraordinary experience, just from a publishing standpoint, to have everyone working on this book spread out all over, trying to put together something this complicated, in addition to all the other projects that anyone who was working on this book was doing. It's a miracle. That it could come together at all is a testament to what can happen when people are dedicated and committed.

What's interesting is that it was already in there, because the book opens with a pathogen, and that was just a prescient--almost a premonition. There's something about how the mind works and intuition acts. A thesis of the book is that caste is so ever-present, an invisible powerful force in society and in all of our lives, that anything that happens somehow has a connection to caste.

This book involves such rich use of metaphor, in a serious piece of heavily researched nonfiction.

I think in metaphor. I'm primarily a narrative writer; narrative nonfiction is where I'm happiest, is the natural expression of my ideas. I find that I'm most at home in telling a story, and a metaphor is a story. It's making that connection, it's a way of reaching a reader through the most natural means that I know. I don't know of any other way.

American caste is both a novel concept and an instantly recognizable one. How does this book tread new ground?

The Warmth of Other Suns is the story of six million African Americans fleeing the Jim Crow South for the north and west over the course of much of the 20th century. Some would describe that as the story of a response to what many people would call racism. However, that word does not appear in Warmth, not in the text. It might be in the title of an article that I refer to--that book has 100 pages of notes--but that's not a term I use, because I don't think that it's sufficient to describe the phenomenon that undergirds interactions and structures of power in the United States. That doesn't mean racism does not exist, but I did not feel that it was the most applicable or accurate way to describe what people were fleeing, or what they met in the places that they fled to.

This book is a continuation of the perspective I took with Warmth. I think that using the word caste requires us as Americans to think differently. It automatically expands our sense of what we think we know. It's an uncommon word to apply to ourselves, so it gets you thinking in a way that words we're accustomed to using can blur. Because it's not a word that we're accustomed to using, it's not judgmental, doesn’t feel as if it's an accusation, doesn't automatically incite shame or blame or guilt. Not only is it accurate, but it is a portal to understanding. That's how I connect with the word as a writer.

Historically speaking, caste has on occasion been applied to the United States. Charles Sumner had used the word; Martin Luther King had used the word. Where people have looked deeply at the structures that we have inherited throughout American history, they have often come back to this word. But there's been nothing that dives deeply into what that actually means. This was an attempt to do that, and to go to the original caste system that would come to mind most readily, which would be India, and that of the short-lived, terrifying Third Reich, and the interconnectedness of those two and that of our own country.

Then there are the pillars, which I came to as a result of going deeply into the topic: what had been written before; the Laws of Manu, which is the code for the Indian caste system; the Nuremburg Laws; and, of course, the aspect of all this that I knew best, the Jim Crow laws in our own country. I researched them ever more deeply in order to emerge with what I have described as the eight pillars of caste.  

I read scores of books from multiple cultures. I collated and pulled together the histories and the ways of enforcing these caste systems into a more easily digestible rendering in one place.

At what point did you see the book take shape?

This has been simmering within me for a long time. Warmth was a precursor. It's about the Great Migration, but it's really about freedom and how far people are willing to go to achieve it, and the caste system that they were forced to flee. That's one reason why Warmth has remained so constant a presence in all the ups and downs we've seen since it came out. There's still been a hunger for it that defies the presumed topics, because the topic is so much bigger than the Migration itself.

I heard a side note on the news about anthrax emerging from the permafrost in Siberia in July of 2016. I didn't know what I might do, but I knew it was something. That was the beginning of this book. Who knew that by the time I would complete it, we would be in a global pandemic that would shut down humanity in its tracks. I didn't know at that moment I would write a book about caste, but that was the beginning of an understanding that this was big. The planet was in peril, humanity was in peril, and this was a seemingly small example that didn't get a lot of attention at the time, but it spoke to me strongly. Every passing month, every passing year after that, it became more urgent. It was a progression toward this book.

First the pandemic, and then the responses to George Floyd's murder, mark this book's entry to the world. It feels very timely, but also timeless.

Whenever I write, I seek to be timeless, and focus on the history. We keep seeing the repeat of the history that we're not paying attention to or don't know well enough. These events are shocking, but not surprising if you know the country's history. I go back to one of the many metaphors in the book, the old house: I'm essentially coming in as the inspector of the building and saying, these are the weak points that need attention. If you know your house, then you know what is wrong with it and you will seek to fix those things. If you don't know, you can't fix them. If you have no interest in knowing, you absolutely are not going to be able to fix those things.

Without transcending the artificial boundaries between us, without seeing the humanity in one another, we will continue to hurt each other. What we've seen recently has been brewing and simmering for 400 years. It rises and it falls, accelerates and slows, but it always comes back, because we're not dealing with the essential structures that have created the system we live in. Until those systems are addressed, it will continue. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Book Review

Review: Spring

Spring by Leila Rafei (Blackstone Publishing, $26.99 hardcover, 9781982672577, August 25, 2020)

Spring by Leila Rafei adeptly casts the Arab Spring uprising as a backdrop for upheaval in the lives of three ordinary people in her extraordinary debut novel.

In 2011, young people descend upon Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand a new government. "The chant rang out again and again. The people demand the fall of the regime." Sami, an Egyptian university student, dimly registers the protesters in the streets although his classes are canceled because of them. "He barely seemed to muster enough energy to get off the couch, let alone march in the street." Jamila, a Sudanese refugee, is seeking permanent asylum. The violence in the streets is an enormous inconvenience as she moves around the city. Suad, Sami's mother, watches the uprising on television. As far as she's concerned, "in Tahrir there were only hooligans, young men with too much time on their hands and too little money in their pockets."

Sami breaches Islamic culture by living with Rose, his pregnant American girlfriend. On top of that guilt, he feels no ideological connection with the protesters and initially avoids Tahrir Square. "To Sami, the thought of getting arrested--and worse yet, Suad finding out--was enough to plant him in place for the entire week, if need be." Yet as his relationship with Rose ends along with the regime, he's drawn to Tahrir, where "it didn't seem to matter anymore... that his whole existence was one of apostasy."

Suad is a religious woman worried about Sami neglecting his faith. Watching the insurgency on TV causes her to review her own small attempts to revolt in a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams. "Deep down in the unmentionable recesses of her mind, Suad sometimes grew tired of relying on God. There were so many prayers that had gone unanswered." Jamila cleans house for Sami and Rose, witnessing the privilege that they take for granted. She avoids the revolutionaries--their cause is not her cause--but she can't ignore them. She fears her asylum request is insignificant in the midst of the insurgency: "Of what worth was her story when people were setting themselves on fire in public and not getting more than a passing mention in the news?"

By allowing the arc of ordinary lives importance over an act of revolution, Rafei elevates her characters and gives their intentions a sense of gravity. Spring is an impressive debut novel that combines the urgency of literary fiction with the timelessness of historical fiction. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Shelf Talker: In this extraordinary debut, three ordinary people deal with changes in their lives in the midst of the Arab Spring.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Sweet Kisses by Various
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
3. The Magnolia Inn by Ann-Marie Meyer
4. How to Date a Younger Man by Kendall Ryan
5. The System Is Unforgiving by Allen F. Maxwell
6. The What If Guy by Lauren Blakely
7. Fearless Pursuit by Barbara Freethy
8. Wild Irish Dreamer (The Mystic Cove Series Book 8) by Tricia O'Malley
9. The Dawn of the End (The Rising Book 3) by Kristen Ashley
10. The Blueberry Lane Series by Katy Regnery

[Many thanks to!]

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