Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, August 18, 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

Judy Blume: 'We Want to Celebrate You, Our Customers'

Judy Blume and her husband, George Cooper

"Independent Bookstore Day, celebrated nationally in April with an in-store party, giveaways, and exclusive merchandise, will be held this year on Saturday, August 29. Okay, we'll take any kind of celebration we can get, right? And on this Indie Bookstore Day we want to celebrate you, our customers--to thank you for your loyalty and support over a difficult time for all of us. You've kept us going. You've shopped online, by phone, and in person wearing masks and gloves. You've ordered books for yourselves, your families, and your friends. You've ordered Starter Libraries for newborns and as birthday gifts for toddlers. You've ordered books you've read about, both new and old, you've had bookish conversations with our staff--and a better staff doesn't exist--that's how we feel anyway. So let's celebrate them too. Hey, Emily, Gianelle, Robin and Lori, we're talking about you!

"This year you can celebrate Indie Bookstore Day at the store, wearing your favorite mask. Or join us online, just follow us on social media and we'll try and make sure you feel the booklove from afar. How I wish George and I could be there in person. We miss being at the store more than we can say. It's what our grown children call the vulnerability thing. Something we don't readily admit to, or even feel. But we'll be back, that's a promise."

--Judy Blume, bestselling author and owner of Books & Books @ the Studios of Key West, Fla., in a letter to her "book friends"

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


Book Groups Call on Congress to Take Action Against Amazon

In a joint letter sent yesterday to Rep. David Cicilline, chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee, which has been looking into the power of the large tech companies, Allison K. Hill, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, and Mary E. Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, said that "the competitive framework of the publishing industry has been fundamentally altered in recent years--and remains at serious risk of further diminishment--because of the concentrated power and influence of one company in particular: Amazon."

They called on the federal government to take action against Amazon, including prohibiting the company from using books as a price loss leader; prohibiting Amazon from tying distribution services to the purchase of advertising; prohibiting the company from leveraging data from its online platform to compete with suppliers; and prohibiting it from imposing "most-favored-nation provisions" (MFNs) and related provisions. (Those provisions require publishers to offer Amazon similar or better terms and conditions as those offered to any competing distributors; inform Amazon about more favorable or alternative terms given to competitors; and restrict price discounts to consumers.) The letter and its call for regulation of Amazon may be the most coordinated and direct effort by the book industry yet, and it's especially striking that the AAP is involved, since for most publishers Amazon is their single-largest customer.

Noting that Amazon likely controls 50% of book distribution--and for some industry suppliers, 70%-80%--the group said that Amazon's dominance means no publisher can avoid selling to it and that the dominance "allows it to engage in systematic below-cost pricing of books to squash competition in the book selling industry as a whole." The dominance comes in part "from the astonishing level of data that [Amazon] collects across its entire platform. Amazon tracks and uses data that provides it with an incredible amount of information about individuals and how to target them.... The result is that Amazon no longer competes on a level playing field when it comes to book distribution, but, rather, owns and manipulates the playing field."

The data the company collects gives Amazon "an insurmountable lead over any would-be distribution rivals--a lead so daunting that, at this point, absent government intervention, there is no possibility of meaningful competition from anyone, whether they be publishers, booksellers, or emerging platforms. Additionally, some of Amazon's tools steer customers to sellers of infringing books, deceptive summaries, counterfeits, and other unauthorized copies that compete with legitimate sales."

In addition, Amazon often "manipulates discovery tools to make a supplier's books difficult to find without the purchase of advertising or refuses distribution unless the supplier also purchases advertising." Thus, the company often can "extract both unwanted purchases and supra-competitive prices from suppliers. It also disadvantages rivals by directing valuable advertising dollars to its own dominant business."

As a result of Amazon's dominance, it is able to dictate "the economic terms of its relationships with suppliers so that publishers, their authors, and the booksellers who sell on Amazon pay more each year for Amazon's distribution and advertising services but receive less each year in return. Amazon employs non-transparent data algorithms and recommendation engines to steer consumers toward Amazon's own products, or even toward infringing products without disclosing to consumers that it is doing so."

And by using books as loss leaders, the company has been able to "lure consumers to its website, gather data, make profits on bigger ticket items, and capture an increasing market share. Despite innovation in the independent bookselling world, independent bookstores find themselves struggling to compete with a company that historically sells books at a loss to that end. Amazon has garnered the bulk of the online book market through loss leader pricing, including by offering books below cost in order to promote and sell its proprietary Kindle device."

The group concluded: "Amazon holds an outsized position of power and control in our country, giving it the ability to interfere with the free flow of information, ideas and literature on a large scale. With great appreciation for your leadership, we note that the American book publishing industry is and always has been uniquely intertwined with our democracy. Many authors, publishers, and booksellers along the way have contributed to the marketplace of ideas, and we hope that many more will emerge and thrive to the benefit of the public. This will not happen, however, unless government officials step in decisively to exercise appropriate governance of Amazon."

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

New Bookstore and Bar Coming to Lafayette, La.

Beausoleil Books, an independent bookstore with a general-interest inventory, and the Whisper Room, an attached speakeasy-style bar, are opening in a 3,000-square-foot storefront in downtown Lafayette, La., later this year, the Acadiana Advocate reported.

Owner Bryan Dupree is opening the business with three friends he met during law school at Louisiana State University. The bookstore will carry classics, national bestsellers and titles by local and diverse authors, and the store will have a large children's section. Dupree, who is fluent in French, will be partnering with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy to promote French literature at his store.

"We will be their only Louisiana partnership," Dupree told the Advocate. "This has been the most exciting part for me, promoting French literacy in Louisiana, especially with all of the children's books we're going to have. Reading in French at a young age is a wonderful thing."

Dupree explained that he initially had the idea for the store when a group of French tourists asked him if there was a store nearby where they could buy postcards. There wasn't, and Dupree's spark of inspiration was wanting to remedy that.

The Whisper Room, meanwhile, will serve craft cocktails, specialty wines and local beers. Customers will be able to access the Whisper Room from Beausoleil Books, but it will also have its own street-front entrance. Both spaces will have ample seating and, when it is once again safe to do so, Dupree plans to host storytime sessions and a variety of other events. He plans to integrate the bookstore and the bar in a number of ways, including having rotating cocktails and candles tied to a book of the month.

Dupree is eyeing an opening date in October.

International Update: Hardcovers Sell in U.K., Canadian Indies Coping, Hong Kong Bookseller Reopens

Sales of hardcover books in the U.K. have spiked since bookstores began reopening June 15, the Bookseller reported. With 6.5 million hardcovers sold since the week ending June 20, volume was up 23% year on year and value up 26.8%, at £77.3 million (about $96.9 million), according to Nielsen BookScan TCM data. As a proportion of the market, hardcover sales accounted for 23.5% of the TCM's volume, up from 20.8%.

"With much of the nation still working remotely (and restaurants gradually reopening), cookbooks sold strongly," the Bookseller wrote, adding that the food & drink category was up 20.5% year on year. Hardcover fiction was also up 20% in volume, while paperback fiction declined slightly by 0.05%.


When the Covid-19 crisis hit Canada four months ago, suspending "the joyful ritual of a good browse through a well-stocked independent bookstore," indies in British Columbia "were not willing to just go dark," the Vancouver Sun reported. "Store websites were whipped into tip-top shape and curbside and home deliveries were offered. Once closed completely, B.C. bookstores are open again--but things have changed a lot."

"Life in the bookstore is not the same. We see our bookstores as third places where people can gather informally outside of work or home, exchange ideas and relax," said Evelyn Gillespie of Laughing Oyster Book Shop, Courtenay. "That's not the environment we can have now. It is great that people can now come in and browse our shelves, but nobody wants to stay long. And with limited capacity we don't want them to linger, either. That is probably the greatest difference we are all experiencing now--we are missing the joyful engagement with our customers."

At Massy Books in Vancouver's Chinatown neighborhood, Patricia Massy said, "There was and still is racism around Covid and a lot of businesses in Chinatown. During February and into March, we saw a massive decrease in business." After the store established a free delivery service, business picked up. In June, Massy Books had more online sales than during all of 2019, and she added three new staff members. "People really wanted to show their support for independent bookstores and wanted to see them survive."

Jessica Walker of Munro's Books, Victoria, recalled: "After the first couple of terrible weeks, we were actually quite pleasantly surprised. We did a lot of online business. Our online orders, I don't even know what the math is, are like 10 times what they were before."

Mosaic Books no-contact pick-up.

Noting that Mosaic Books, Kelowna, is a part of the landscape of the Okanagan city, Alicia Neill observed: "I feel like our community is really good about supporting us and I think we are just a good institution for the downtown. We just seem to get stronger and stronger, which is nice to see especially in the age of Amazon.... During all the Covid stuff, a lot of people were saying: 'You know, I'm not really going to shop at Amazon anymore.' They actually preferred shopping local." From March to end of July Mosaic's online orders jumped from about 800 in 2019 to around 6,000 this year.

The performance is consistent among other indies in the country. Mosaic co-owner Michael Neill, who also runs the indie bookstore business management, POS and inventory system Bookmanager, said that among the 285 stores the company works with in Canada, the increases were dramatic. In April 2019, for example, collective online sales were C$8,000 (about US$5,885), compared to C$104,000 (about US$76,510) in 2020.


Posted last week on Instagram by Hong Kong bookseller Bleak House Books in San Po Kong, Kowloon: "It's cram time. Tomorrow Bleak House Books reopens for walk-ins after being closed for a month because of the damn coronavirus. Things are still touch and go out there so we will have a 10 person limit. We ask for everyone's patience and understanding during these strange times. See you guys tomorrow!"

On reopening day: "Less than an hour into our reopening and we reached our 10 person limit! Thank you all for your support! We love our readers!" And later: "You know it's a good day at the bookshop when a puppy dog shows up! We opened our bookshop doors at 11 a.m. today after being closed for a month. From that time until closing we had a non-stop stream of customers. It is hard to put into words what this means to us. That a dinky little bookshop on the 27th floor in the middle of nowhere San Po Kong has become a place people wish to visit. It is humbling. Really. And also nerve wracking. Because it means we have our work cut out for us. But tomorrow is another day. And we will try again to do our best to be the bookshop we think the community needs and deserves. We love our community. We love Hong Kong." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Shirley Ann Grau

Shirley Ann Grau

Shirley Ann Grau, the Southern writer whose novels "explored themes of race, power, class and love," died on August 3, the New York Times reported. She was 91.

Grau was best known for her 1964 novel The Keepers of the House. Set in the Deep South, the book features a decades-long relationship between a wealthy white widower and his Black housekeeper. They marry in secret, and their descendants must face the repercussions when the family secret is eventually exposed.

The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1965, and when the Pulitzer representative called to tell Grau the news, she assumed it was a prank and hung up. She later kept the award above the closet in her study.

Published in the midst of the civil rights movement, the novel drew the ire of white supremacists and the Klu Klux Klan for its depiction of interracial marriage. In an episode that Grau would later describe as having a "Groucho Marx ending to it," a group of klansmen attempted to burn a cross on her lawn. She was not even home at the time, and as the group forgot to bring a shovel, they had to lay the cross on the ground. As a result, it did not light properly and sputtered out after burning some grass.

Grau's daughter, Katherine F. Miner, said of her mother and the incident: "She didn't hesitate to tackle controversial subjects, and she certainly wasn't going to be intimidated by the Klan."

Grau was born in New Orleans, La., in 1929. She went to Newcomb College, the women's affiliate of Tulane University, and majored in English. She enrolled in a graduate program in literature at Tulane and had intended to become a teacher, until the head of the English department said he would not hire women as teaching assistants. She dropped out without earning a graduate degree, and around that same time her short stories began appearing in magazines and literary journals.

In addition to The Keepers of the House, Grau wrote five other novels and four short story collections. Her debut collection, The Black Prince and Other Stories, was published in 1955. It went on to be a finalist for the National Book Award. Her last novel was Roadwalkers, published in 1994, and her final short story collection, Selected Stories, was released in 2006.


'First Day of School' Wishes from Little Shop of Stories

"Today is the first day of school for our community," Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga., posted on Facebook yesterday. "As in so many other parts of the country and the world, it is unlike any first day we've ever had. But as in any year, we send you all our best wishes.

"To the teachers: we wish you safety. We wish you flexibility in the face of all challenges, new and familiar. We wish you joy and purpose. And we give you thanks. You are the pioneers.

"To the parents: we wish you peace. We wish you patience with your children and also yourself as we tread unknown waters. We wish you time to breathe and discover. And we give you thanks. You are the protectors.

"To the students: we wish you hope. We wish you curiosity and imagination as we redefine what it means to learn together. We wish you connection and love. And we give you thanks. You are the purpose.

"We are here for all of you, however we can be. You can do this. WE can do this. Have a great first day of school. We love you."

City Point Press Sponsors Display Contest for Your Voice Is Your Superpower

To celebrate the launch of Your Voice Is Your Superpower: A Beginner's Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First Amendment) by Jessica and Sandy Bohrer (ages 4-7, September 15), City Point Press is sponsoring a visual competition for bookstores and libraries.

Publisher David Wilk and a small panel will judge the best chalkboard, website, Instagram/Facebook post, or e-mail shout-out for the book. Bookstores and libraries can post their display September 10-17, then send a photo or link to by 5 p.m. EST on September 18. The winning entry, which will be announced no later than September 21, receives $50.

The co-authors are both constitutional lawyers. Jessica Bohrer has been protecting and empowering journalists for more than a decade, and her father, Sandy, is a leading First Amendment lawyer. A portion of proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

City Point Press noted: "We hope you will join us by participating in this friendly competition, use the book for story time in your store or library, and tell parents and teachers in your community about the book."

Chalkboard: By Hand, Ink

"Please wear one in a STORE. Please wear one HERE and THERE. Masks will protect us ALL. So please wear one EVERYWHERE." That's the message on a sidewalk chalkboard sign in front of By Hand, Ink in the Shops at Sea Pines Center, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

"Before our Town Council mandated masks for anyone entering indoor commercial spaces as of July 1, I created this sandwich board, which has received many favorable comments," said owner Bobbi Hahn.

Bookseller Moment: Werner Books

Posted on Facebook by Werner Books, Erie, Pa.: "We're excited about the way our children's section looks as well as our front window! What do you think? Not only do they look nice, but they carry the important reminder that reading is important for kids to both learn and develop a healthy imagination. Parents, bond with your children through a book! Thank you so much to Patti O'Brien for doing an amazing job with our space!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Erin Brockovich on CBS This Morning

CBS This Morning: Erin Brockovich, author of Superman's Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It (Pantheon, $28.95, 9781524746964).

Movies: The Devil All the Time

Netflix has released the trailer for The Devil All the Time, based on Donald Ray Pollock's 2011 book, the Wrap reported. Starring Tom Holland, the project is directed by Antonio Campos (The Sinner, Simon Killer) from a script he co-wrote with Paulo Campos.

The cast of The Devil All the Time also includes Robert Pattinson, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgard, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, Harry Melling and Pokey LaFarge. Netflix will debut the film globally on September 16.

Books & Authors

Awards: Read Russia; Working Class Writers Grant

The shortlist has been released for the 2020 Read Russia Prize, which is awarded every two years for works of Russian literature published in new English translations. The finalists are selected by the Read Russia Prize jurors "for their quality, excellence and contribution to Russian literature in the Anglophone world." The winner(s), to be announced in September, receives up to $10,000, divided at the discretion of the prize jury between the translator(s) of the work and the English-language publishing house(s). This year's finalists are:

Woe From Wit by Alexander Griboedov, translated by Betsy Hulick (Columbia University Press/Russian Library)
Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert & Elizabeth Chandler (New York Review Books)
Rock, Paper, Scissors by Maxim Osipov, translated by Boris Dralyuk, Alex Fleming & Anne Marie Jackson (New York Review Books)
Selected Poetry by Alexander Pushkin, translated by Antony Wood (Penguin Classics)
Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina, translated by Lisa C. Hayden (Oneworld)


Carrie Callahan won the Speculative Literature Foundation's $1,000 Working Class Writers Grant, which is awarded annually "to working class, blue-collar, poor and homeless writers of speculative fiction," for her short story "The Zombie in the Yard."

Callahan was also the recipient of a 2019 Writers of the Future Award for her story "Dirt Road Magic," which appears in ​Writers of the Future Volume 35​. She has described her writing as ​Dirt Spec​, or speculative fiction about people who are economically disadvantaged, inspired by her own background. She said she "strives to portray these people with nuance even amid space wars, zombie invasions and magical school graduations."

Book Review

Review: A Kingdom of Tender Colors: A Memoir of Comedy, Survival, and Love

Kingdom of Tender Colors: A Memoir of Comedy, Survival, and Love by Seth Greenland (Europa Editions, $24 hardcover, 288p., 9781609455835, September 15, 2020)

To be clear: the screenwriter and novelist Seth Greenland (The Angry Buddhist) would have preferred not to have received a lymphoma diagnosis in 1993. But this is a guy who lives for artistic validation. In A Kingdom of Tender Colors: A Memoir of Comedy, Survival, and Love, he sheepishly admits that the worst thing about his cancer diagnosis was his fear that "I would not get to live out the creative dreams I believed that I had been put on this planet to fulfill." Hence, file this memoir--an absorbing and funny work that would not have existed if Greenland hadn't had cancer--under "silver lining."

Greenland's lymphoma has lousy timing: the diagnosis comes when he's 37 and his wife is pregnant with their second child; his mother died of cancer 18 months earlier. The average survival rate for someone with Greenland's diagnosis? Six years. A natural-born optimist, Greenland takes a just-say-yes approach to his treatment options. Eight rounds of chemo? Greenland is in, even if it means "needles, nausea, constipation, and other deflating side effects that would have brought a twinkle to the Marquis de Sade's eye." And why not chase the chemo with an alternative regimen "that requires me to ingest exponentially more tablets and capsules than Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters took on their bus tour of North America"? Meditation, prayer, macrobiotic food, tai chi, analysis--Greenland tries and evaluates it all ("Shark cartilage? At least it's not therapy"). The scene involving Greenland's maiden voyage with his doctor-prescribed coffee enema is a comic set piece.

While the cancer stuff is the book's calling card, Greenland gauges correctly that if he's sufficiently entertaining, readers won't begrudge him a few detours. He's in no apparent hurry to get through sections about his Scarsdale childhood, his famous ad man dad, and his struggle to balance professional satisfaction with financial solvency (he cops to having written for TV shows that he would never watch). In his epilogue, Greenland says that he wrote A Kingdom of Tender Colors to "put my experience in some kind of perspective, give form to it and allow me to see if it might somehow be useful to anyone else." By "experience" he means, of course, cancer, but he may as well be referring to his productive, bustling and well-lived life. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Readers may come for the screenwriter/novelist's cancer story, but they'll stay for his gifts as a raconteur.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Until Talon by Aurora Rose Reynolds
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
3. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
4. Truth (Betrothed Book 10) by Penelope Sky
5. The Jack Reacher Cases: Complete Books #10, #11, #12 by Dan Ames
6. Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 2 by Alex Berenson
7. Dare to Tempt (Dare Nation Book 2) by Carly Phillips
8. The Restaurant by Pamela M. Kelley
9. In Praise of the Bees by Kristin Gleeson
10. Lord of the Sky (The Executioner Knights Book 6) by Kathryn Le Veque

[Many thanks to!]

Powered by: Xtenit