Also published on this date: Wednesday, August 5, 2020: Maximum Shelf: We Keep the Dead Close

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, August 5, 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


N.Y.'s Off the Beaten Path Bookstore Moving to Larger Space

Off the Beaten Path's former location at 28 Chautauqua Ave.

Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, Lakewood, N.Y., is relocating "just up the street to a new storefront" at 124 Chautauqua Ave., the Post-Journal reported. Plans call for the new location to open August 10.

Owner Bob Lingle, who bought the bookshop two years ago and had put together a five-year business plan, said, "It was in 'Year Six' that I wanted to look into moving to a larger location. And we were able to do it in two-and-a-half years instead." The new space "offers us 250 more square feet and it's one large room as compared to three small rooms. We can kind of shift things around. When we're allowed to do more events again, we have the space to do them in the store."

The decision to move was prompted by sales growth over the past two years as well as "timely planning ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic," the Post-Journal wrote.

"This year, our sales are oddly up compared to last year," said Lingle. "We did have a rough patch in being closed for two months, but we were able to transition well." He cited Bookshop as a key aid to making it through the crisis. "It's built for small bookstores. We used to have a website that was based off our inventory, but our inventory is limited." The platform's debut this year "was an ideal time to get that website launched, get our sales directed over that way. We were able to receive quite a few online sales through our closure."

Since reopening, business has been strong. "Normally November is our second highest sales month of the year," he noted. "Closing out July, we've beaten our November sales from last year. We're doing really well and our customers have been great.... We were able to weather the storm and still conduct business even though we weren't here doing our normal business. I like to have a plan to forge ahead, but I also like to have a plan for the worst-case scenario and you don't have more of a worst-case scenario than running an independent book store in the middle of a pandemic."

Regarding the new location, Lingle said he has "been looking at the building that we're moving into for months now because it has been vacant for a while. One of the longer-term goals was I didn't want to move unless I had the opportunity to buy the building. That's a longer-term conversation that we've started to have already. [Our landlord]'s excited that the person renting the building wants to buy the building. I'm just excited to have a place we can do more with."

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

International Update: WH Smith May Cut Up to 1,500 Jobs, BA Pubs Booktime

WH Smith has announced plans for a major restructuring that could cut up to 1,500 jobs across the company, which operates about 1,400 shops that are primarily at airports, train stations, downtowns, highway stops and hospitals, and sells books, stationery, magazines, newspapers, entertainment and travel products, and some food. The retailer said that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, "reduced passenger numbers and lower footfall in towns and cities meant it was reviewing its store operation across its travel and High Street business," the Bookseller reported.

"This has been a very difficult decision and we are committed to supporting all our colleagues throughout this process and ensuring it is conducted fairly," WH Smith said, adding that it has launched a collective consultation on a proposed restructure, with the costs associated expected to be between £15 million (about $18.8 million) million and £19 million (about $23.8 million). The group added that it expects a headline loss before tax for the fiscal year ending August 31 of between £70 million (about $87.7 million) and £75 million (about $94 million). Total group revenue was down 57% in July compared to the same time last year, with High Street declining 25% and falling 73% in travel, according to the company.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have responded quickly and taken decisive actions to protect the business including substantially strengthening our financial position," CEO Carl Cowling said. "We have also welcomed support from government where available.

"In our travel business, while we are beginning to see early signs of recovery in some of our markets, the speed of recovery continues to be slow. At the same time, while there has been some progress in our High Street business, it does continue to be adversely affected by low levels of footfall. As a result, we now need to take further action to reduce costs across our businesses. I regret that this will have an impact on a significant number of colleagues whose roles will be affected by these necessary actions, and we will do everything we can to support them at this challenging time.

"While we are mindful of the continuing uncertainties that exist, we are a resilient and versatile business. The operational actions we are taking along with the financing arrangements that are in place, put us in a strong position to navigate this time of uncertainty and we are well positioned to benefit in due course from the recovery of our key markets."


The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland has taken over the publishing of Booktime magazine "to support members, continuing to offer the magazine free of charge to indies, with publisher advertising rates remaining the same." In May, the BA  purchased Bertline from wholesaler Bertrams, which went out of business earlier this year.

The full editorial and design team will be retained on a freelance basis to continue producing the magazine, and the BA said it will be increasing the number of bookshops that receive the publication free to more than 400 stores, with an anticipated circulation of 20,000 readers for the autumn issue.

"We're delighted to be producing the next issue of Booktime, which has proved universally popular among book lovers and booksellers alike," said Alan Staton, the BA's director of strategy & communications. "At this pivotal time for bookshops in the U.K., when they need more support than ever before, we hope that publishers will support independent bookshops by booking advertising in the autumn issue."


Noting that "too much of Australia's literary heritage is out of print," the Australian Society of Authors is working with a research team at the University of Melbourne and Australian public libraries on a pilot project to "breathe new life" into important OP titles by digitizing them, licensing them to public libraries for digital lending and making them available for sale as e-books.

ASA said that funding for the project will fully cover all digitization costs, and authors will receive royalties from libraries on loans, as well as any retail sales. At the same time, the research team will be conducting studies "to better understand the value of out-of-print books, library promotion activities, and the relationship between library lending and sales."


Yesterday, the New York Times explored how Melbourne, Australia is becoming a case study in handling a second wave of Covid-19 infections in "a country that once thought it had the pandemic beat." Melbourne has now imposed some of the toughest restrictions in the world. "By Monday night, the city seemed to be in listening mode. The streets were emptying out, silent in hibernation," the Times wrote.

"It's like a Sunday in the 1950s," said Readings owner Mark Rubbo of the deserted shops and streets. He also noted that people were stocking up again on books through online orders, with The Happiest Man on Earth, a memoir by Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku published on July 28 by Pan Macmillan Australia, becoming a runaway hit. --Robert Gray

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: Full-time Fulfillment; Appreciated Precautions

Naomi Chamblin, owner of Napa Bookmine in Napa and St. Helena, Calif., reported that two of the three Bookmine locations have reopened, more or less fully. The third location is inside of a public market that is operating at strictly reduced capacity. The market has a normal capacity of around 1,000 people, Chamblin explained, but is only allowing 20-70 people in at a time.

Masks are required at all Bookmine locations, customers are asked to use hand sanitizer when they enter the store and no more than six customers are allowed in at a time. Chamblin said locals are "very much on board with masks," and the store has received a ton of support about its pro-mask, pro-precaution measures. "Our locals thank us all the time for being open, and I've had many people tell me that we are the first place they've visited outside of a grocery store because they feel safe with us."

Naomi Chamblin and her mom sending virtual hugs.

Things are a bit trickier at the location in the public market, however, as it attracts a lot of tourists. There are more issues involving people wearing their masks incorrectly or taking them off when they get inside the building, as well as responding aggressively when asked to put on their masks.

Chamblin noted that Bookmine has created a new, full-time position for handling online fulfillment, and the store will soon add its used book inventory to its website. People are shopping very differently now, she said, including those who are coming into the store. Used book sales are slightly down, which Chamblin attributed to people not really "getting lost in the stacks" as much as they used to, and many people have a good idea of what they want when they enter the store. Bookmine is still accepting used books, but customers need to make an appointment now. Gift sales are also way down, although greeting card sales have been steady.

On the subject of the protests against police brutality and systemic racism that began in late May, Chamblin said some of Bookmine's booksellers covered the store's sidewalk with Black Lives Matter messages and filled one of the store's windows with the names of people killed by police, which was kept in place for well over a month.


In Davidson, N.C., Main Street Books began offering appointment shopping in July and reopened for browsing on Monday, owner Adah Fitzgerald reported. The store is continuing to offer free local delivery and pick-up for customers who don't feel comfortable browsing. Masks have been required for everyone since the store started doing pick-up service, well before North Carolina issued a mask mandate, and Fitzgerald said they've received "no pushback whatsoever."

While the store was closed, Fitzgerald and her staff asked local readers to make paper hearts and deliver them to the store through the brass mail slot in the front door. Fitzgerald used the hearts to make a rainbow across the store's front windows, which she said "really sparked joy locally."

Fitzgerald and her team have also closed the store's reading area, reorganized the sales floor to create more space for browsing and added an acrylic shield at the register. They are using the scheduling software Acuity to book appointments for browsing, and all events have been moved to Zoom.

After protests began in late May, the store created Black Lives Matter window displays and table displays, and the Main Street Books team "recommended the heck out of antiracism books" while helping "lots of white families decolonize their home libraries."


Shionka McGlory

Mocha Books in Tulsa, Okla., has reopened by appointment only, said owner Shionka McGlory. Only two customers are allowed in at a time and masks are required. Customers must also use hand sanitizer before handling any books. McGlory is in the process of creating a Mocha Books mobile bookstore, and while she is still looking for a vehicle, she does have a pop-up appearance lined up at a local breastfeeding event this month.

McGlory's bookstore was among the Black-owned bookstores that saw unprecedented orders early in the summer. That surge of support, McGlory reported, lasted only a little over a month. She's seen a huge drop in website visits as well as orders, and while she was hoping that level of business would continue, "it's not shocking that it hasn't." Meeting that demand, she added, was a challenge. The toughest part was fulfilling apparel orders, as they are made to order. Despite the challenges, McGlory gave her customers frequent updates and they remained "very supportive" through it all. --Alex Mutter

Amazon Opening First Warehouse in El Paso, Texas

Amazon is opening its first fulfillment center in El Paso, Tex., sometime next year. The 625,000-square-foot warehouse will include robots and specialize in small items such as books, electronics and toys. Some 700 humans will work full-time in the facility, too.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said: "I'm so proud of the teamwork and collaboration between Amazon, the City, the County, and Borderplex Alliance. We're making tremendous strides together, and our city has a bright future."

Jon Barela, CEO of Borderplex Alliance, called Amazon "a transcendent company, and this is one of the most significant economic development projects for our region in decades. For years we've worked diligently with our partners at Amazon to demonstrate our region's value and capabilities. We're grateful for Amazon's presence in our community during these difficult economic times and I remain optimistic that our region will help lead our nation's economic recovery."

Obituary Note: John Adams

John Adams (r.) with Crown/PRH author Barack Obama.

John Adams, longtime salesperson and national accounts manager at Penguin Random House, died on Monday of an apparent heart attack at age 64.

In a letter to staff, Jaci Updike, president of U.S. sales at PRH, wrote in part that Adams "had just ended a call yesterday with his sales team, where he was his usual self, cracking jokes and full of energy. To then receive the news that his heart had stopped was a shock to us all."

Adams began his publishing career in 1979 as a sales rep for Little, Brown, based in Washington, D.C. In 1986, he joined Crown/Outlet as a sales rep covering the South. In 1995, he was promoted to national accounts manager, and "thrived in that role for the entirety of his career with us," Updike wrote.

"There is so much that was impressive about John: he was a brilliant and dedicated reader, especially of our history books, even when there was no chance his accounts would carry them. At sales conference, when a publisher presented an 800+ page book on an obscure historical subject, it was not unusual to see John lean into the microphone with brilliant words of appreciation and support, positioning the book for the rest of us. Sometimes it seemed that he read every book that Knopf's Ash Green and Random House's Bob Loomis signed up.

"And no one was more amazing to be around when the meetings were over. At company meals and events, John was always the heart of the fun, sharing his special magic with anyone who wandered over, no matter what accounts they sold or what their title was. He was a fearless optimist who believed anything was possible; that the account would see the opportunity that the books would sell, that the Baltimore Ravens would win. He was a terrible golfer who left every bad game entirely sure his next game would be spectacular.

"And like the best team players, John helped pick you up when you stumbled, and convinced you that you would absolutely nail it the next time you tried.

"Because, most of all, John was a mentor. He personally mentored many of the younger colleagues he worked with, and he also was a mentor in the broader sense: year after year, book by book, in meeting after meeting, he demonstrated that it is possible to do hard work in difficult circumstances with a joy and authenticity that inspires others. Whether the world was going through tough times, or the company was having an off year, or a publisher was hoping to make a seemingly impossible Costco bestseller out of niche midlist, John never failed to bring his signature optimism, energy, and warmth to every conversation. With a single well-chosen word, or loving nickname, he could turn around the mood of a room faster and better than anyone I have ever known."


Oprah's Book Club Pick: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Oprah Winfrey has chosen Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Random House) by Isabel Wilkerson as her new book club selection. Winfrey said the book "provides a new way of seeing racial inequality, giving rise to countless 'aha' moments and helping us truly understand America as it is now and how we hope it will be."

Noting that her 86th Oprah's Book Club selection "is the most important book, the most essential book... the most necessary for all humanity book that I have ever chosen," Winfrey told CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King that she would be purchasing 500 copies of the book to send to mayors, CEOs and college professors around the country, adding: "All of humanity needs to read this book."

Wilkerson, who joined Winfrey and King for a conversation about her novel, said, "This is not a book that I wanted to write.... This is a book that compelled me, that called to me that I felt I had no choice but to write it. And so I ended up working on this because it seemed that there were things going on that only Caste could really explain."

Image of the Day: Seven Stories Celebration

Novelist and playwrigth Kia Corthron, winner of the Windham Campbell Prize and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, has returned to Seven Stories Press for her second novel, Moon and the Mars. To celebrate, Corthron, her editor Veronica Liu (founder of NYC's Word Up Community Bookstore), agent Malaga Baldi and publisher Dan Simon met at Cafe Luxembourg in Manhattan--outside and with masks in evidence. From left: Liu, Simon, Corthron and Baldi.

Front Window Display: The Book Loft

Posted on Facebook by the Book Loft, Solvang, Calif.: "Our front window this month commemorates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment that granted voting rights to women. We have tremendous respect and gratitude for the women's suffrage movement. We also recognize that the fight isn't over until all Americans are able to vote and have their voices heard."

Personnel Changes at VIZ Media

Sarah Anderson, formerly client publishing director at Simon & Schuster UK, has joined VIZ Media as director, publishing sales.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mary Trump on Colbert's Late Show

Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Mary Trump, author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781982141462).

Jimmy Kimmel Live repeat: D.L. Hughley, co-author of Surrender, White People!: Our Unconditional Terms for Peace (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062953704).

TV: Shadows in the Vineyard; The Flight Attendant

Landmark Studio Group has partnered with District 33 to develop and produce Shadows in the Vineyard, a limited event drama series based on the book Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine by Maximillian Potter, Deadline reported. Noah Wyle and Judith Light will star and executive produce the project, which will be written by John Newman (Get Shorty, Proud Mary), Peter Cambor and Potter.

"This is a fascinating crime story, but it's really a love story," Potter said. "I went to Burgundy not knowing or caring a thing about wine; I went to report on a crime, but I fell in love with Burgundy. When I was losing faith in the world and my fellow man, burned out by the ugliness I had been covering as a journalist, Burgundy came out of nowhere and restored my faith in life, in humanity. The world needs to know a place and a people like Burgundy exists as it gives us all hope and something to aspire to. Maybe now more than ever."


Michelle Gomez (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) has been cast as a series regular in HBO Max's series The Flight Attendant, based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian. Kaley Cuoco stars in and executive produces the project. The cast also includes Sonoya Mizuno, Michiel Huisman, Colin Woodell, Zosia Mamet, Merle Dandridge and Griffin Matthews.

Production was underway on The Flight Attendant when the Covid-19 pandemic "shut down virtually all TV and film production in mid-March. Gomez was shooting prior to the shutdown, but her casting was never announced. The series is eyeing a return to production in late August," Deadline wrote.

Books & Authors

Awards: Wainwright Shortlists

Shortlists have been released for the 2020 Wainwright Prize for U.K. Nature Writing, which recognizes a book that "most successfully inspires readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world." Presented in association with the National Trust, this year's prize has been extended to include a second category for books about global conservation and climate change. The £5,000 (about $6,265) prize fund will be shared by the authors of the winning books, which will be named September 9. The shortlisted titles are:

U.K. Nature Writing
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
The Frayed Atlantic Edge by David Gange
On the Red Hill by Mike Parker
Dark, Salt, Clear by Lamorna Ash
Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape by Patrick Laurie
Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard, illustrated by John Walters
Wanderland by Jini Reddy

Global Conservation
Irreplaceable by Julian Hoffman
Life Changing by Helen Pilcher
Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald
Sitopia by Carolyn Steel
What We Need to Do Now by Chris Goodall
Working with Nature by Jeremy Purseglove

Reading with... Kirkland Hamill

photo: Sieglinde Friedman

Kirkland Hamill has written for Salon and the Advocate, and was formerly the chief development and marketing officer at the National Center for Family Philanthropy. He lives in Baltimore, Md., with his husband, Dave, and a dog named Blue. His debut memoir is Filthy Beasts (Avid Reader Press).

On your nightstand now:

I am reading All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren. I asked my local bookseller, Emma, to recommend an epic story, beautifully written, with rich characters. I was sold when she told me that Robert Penn Warren was also a poet. I think poets make the best novelists. He can write five pages on how the wind is blowing through the trees and I'm right there swaying along with the branches. Having said all that, I love a great, plot-driven story. I have Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce, Canada by Richard Ford and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel on deck. They were also recommendations from my local bookseller. 

Favorite book when you were a child:

I guess that would depend on the age. I've forgotten most of what I read before I was a teenager. I remember loving Judy Blume. She was the first adult who actually acknowledged the complexity of being a child, especially as we were trying to make sense of our bodies and the world around us. I loved A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I was the friend who would have jostled the tree branch.     

Your top five authors:

John Steinbeck
Mark Helprin
Richard Russo
Toni Morrison
Donna Tartt (The Secret History more than her others, but I finished that book and then started it again from the beginning)

Book you've faked reading:

I'm not much of a faker, unless you count some textbook reading in college after being called on by the professor. I've tried Faulkner, and would love to say that I was sophisticated enough to love him, but he just makes my head hurt. I thought it would be a good idea to read the Bible at some point just to see what all the hubbub was about, but the best I could do was to get a book called How to Read the Bible, and I didn't even read that. 

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I didn't realize until way after the fact that it was a YA book, but that hasn't tempered my passion for it. I was crying so hard at the end that I was getting pissed that the tears were impeding my ability to finish it. I'm still trying to figure out how a Holocaust story with Death as the narrator qualifies as a young person's book. It has the best closing line: "I am haunted by humans."    

Book you've bought for the cover:

Almost everything in the airport when my flight is being called.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents weren't the kind of people that you had to hide naughty things from. If I had decided to read the Bible, that would have been more scandalous. I do remember once buying a gay erotic novel and hiding that from my whole family. But then again, I would have hidden it from the cashier when I was buying it if I could have.

Book that changed your life:

There are so many books that have changed me a little bit at a time. I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand when I was 19, at the same time I was taking my first philosophy class (I don't recommend the combination). That book changed me for a few months, until I decided I didn't like who it changed me into. Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch introduced me to this radical idea that there was no such thing as good or evil, which I believed until recently (November 8, 2016--if you're looking for a precise date). Any author who is talented enough to make me feel like I could be the person experiencing the Holocaust, or becoming the child warrior, or surviving slavery, changes me.

Favorite passage from a book:

"And yet if you asked me what [the truth] was, I can't tell you. I can tell you only that it overwhelmed me, that all the hard and wonderful things of the world are nothing more than a frame for a spirit, like fire and light, that is the endless roiling of love and grace. I can tell you only that beauty cannot be expressed or explained in a theory or an idea, that it moves by its own law, that it is God's way of comforting His broken children."  --From A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

Five books you'll never part with:

I'm not one of those people. I give books away. My dog eats them. I can absolutely be floored by a book and then forget about it until I'm reminded.

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

I want to feel the shocked delight of reading Naked by David Sedaris for the first time.

Five books you loved but haven't mentioned yet:

The Nix by Nathan Hill
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Book Review

YA Review: The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party by Allan Wolf (Candlewick, $21.99 hardcover, 416p., ages 12-up, 9780763663247, September 8, 2020)

Through alternating voices and a deft blend of writing styles, Allan Wolf recounts the harrowing 1846 westward wagon trip of the Donner Party that left nearly half the group dead and their name mired in historical infamy.

With Hunger as a constant companion and omnipotent narrator, the story switches perspectives among ill-fated travelers. Wolf presents each voice in its own distinctive writing style as varied as coupled verse, diary entries, prayers to God and prose. Facing an arduous trip, George Donner assembled a group of mainly farmers and families to caravan to California; Donner then led a smaller group south on a cutoff meant to shave miles from their journey. The revised route, actually longer, was a death sentence. Poor navigation cost precious travel days and an early, relentless winter stranded the 81 pioneers--more than half of whom were children--at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains with dwindling rations.

Desperate as weeks passed, some trekked the mountain pass toward rescue only to be met by a blizzard. Survivors warmed themselves and, seeing no other option, set to "the grisly task of harvesting the flesh and organs of their dead" for food. Back at camp, anything remotely edible made for a meal once starvation set in: "strips of ox hide boiled into a glue," their pet dogs, even bits of roasted rug to fill shriveled bellies. Eventually, this included the bodies of their deceased and, in a grisly turn, most of those who refused the human meat died and became meals themselves. Only half the group survived.

Novelist-poet Wolf (The Watch that Ends the Night), using pacing that mimics the travelers' ratcheting plight, crafts a vivid story that humanizes the complicated episode it relates. By examining many travelers' stories, he coaxes a full picture from limited primary resources, a process he refers to as "narrative pointillism." Acknowledging the white presumptuousness of manifest destiny, Wolf honors the Miwok and their land, on which the Donner Party camped, as well as many of the tribal nations scarred by such wagon trips. Thoughtfully designed, ample white space evokes the bleakness of the Donner Party's interminable winter. This hefty novel concludes with copious backmatter including maps, a timeline and selected biographies.

Neither judgmental nor sensationalized, the narrative leaves readers to reconcile the morality of the group's decision to cannibalize their dead. An impressive, albeit woeful, slice of American history that older middle grade readers will sink their teeth into. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

Shelf Talker: California-bound emigrants face staggering hardships after a series of poor navigational decisions and cataclysmic storms leave their group snowbound over the winter of 1847.

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