Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 24, 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


Seattle's Ada's Technical Books Converting Fuel Coffee Shops to Coffee Shop/Bookstores

Ada's Technical Books, Seattle, Wash., is transforming the Fuel Coffee coffee shop minichain it bought in June into three  combination coffee shop/bookstores, the Seattle Times reported.

Limited to "summer walk-up window" service for now, the three Fuel Coffee shops are serving coffee drinks and baked goods, and now have about 100 books on hand, with 10 or so displayed at the front door. With the interiors closed, owners Danielle and David Hulton are beginning renovations; each location will have "book nooks or little bookstore areas" and carry some 1,000 nonfiction, fiction and children's titles.

Current bestsellers are children's books, anti-racism titles, and science fiction & fantasy, and already customers are beginning to shape the inventory at each shop, the Times noted. "We brought children's books to all the locations, but in Montlake we have not been able to keep them in stock," Danielle Hulton said. "People keep buying everything that's on display." At Montlake and Wallingford, farther from the center of the city than the Capitol Hill Fuel Coffee location, "new, hot titles" are moving, the Times added. "New York Times bestseller list titles don't move a ton at Ada's, but they're moving a lot at the Fuel locations," Hulton noted.

The Hultons founded Ada's 10 years ago, and the store moved and expanded three years later. It includes the Lab event space and a co-working space called the Office. In June, Ada's closed the Discovery Café. As its name implies, Ada's Technical Books has an emphasis on technical and science-minded books and happily describes itself as "geeky."

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: 'Quasi-Normal' State; Online Pivot

Bank Square Books

Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., and Savoy Bookshop & Cafe in Westerly, R.I., reported that both stores have been doing curbside pick-up and shipping since the middle of March. They were able to open their doors toward the end of May and early June, with limited capacity and masks required for everyone.

All customers at both stores are given a plastic "hall pass" that helps staff members keep track of capacity. Bank Square Books has two doors onto Main Street, Philbrick noted, so customers come in through one and exit through the other, with the checkout counter located right by the exit door.

Savoy Bookshop

All seating has been removed from both stores and sections have been rearranged to give browsers more space. Plastic shields are in place at the registers. At Bank Square Books, Philbrick and her team rearranged the downstairs cash wraps to make the store more open and improve the flow of traffic. There are signs at each entrance with instructions, and a staff member is always on hand to greet incoming customers.

Noting that Mystic has been "packed with people" this summer, Philbrick said there have been occasional issues with customers not wanting to wear masks or follow social distancing guidelines, but "nothing major." Generally speaking, "people seem to understand they need to wear a mask and follow protocol."

Savoy Bookshop

On the subject of the protests against systemic racism and police brutality that began in late May, Philbrick said there were Black Lives Matter protests in both Mystic and Westerly. Philbrick noted that many staff members participated in the protests and both stores have had prominent BLM displays. She added that there have been a handful of racist incidents in Mystic over the summer, including one incident during which a Black woman was attacked while working at a local hotel. The community rallied around the woman, Philbrick said, and her store was one of several local businesses that sent her gifts in support and sympathy.

Last week, Philbrick and her team sent out a survey to customers of both stores, to get a sense of how well they are serving their customers' needs during the pandemic. Sales were up in both June and August, and website sales are roughly 10 times what they were in 2019. Virtual events are working, though some are much better than others for selling books. While she and her staff are taking things a week at a time, Philbrick continued, it feels like the store has entered a "quasi-normal" state.


In Rehoboth Beach, Del., Browseabout Books was able to reopen to the public on June 1 at 60% capacity, reported managing partner Susan Kehoe. She and her team have made many changes, including widening aisles, removing extraneous fixtures from the sales floor and adding plastic shields to the registers and the information desk.

Browseabout follows a rigorous cleaning schedule and Kehoe also had the store professionally cleaned by a company that offers medical-grade disinfection treatments. The store also has a walk-up cafe window, which has been reopened for take-out.

Kehoe said her customers have been quite respectful of the store's policies, and it's definitely helped that both the state and city have mask mandates in place. The store has plenty of disposable masks on hand to give to customers who may have forgotten their own.

When asked whether the pandemic has altered her approach to ordering titles for the fall, Kehoe said she's been "quite conservative" with frontlist orders this year, but at the encouragement of some of her reps she's gone back and increased orders on specific titles. She's also cut back on buying seasonally specific books and merchandise, noting that she still has an "army" of stuffed bunnies in storage from being shut down during Easter.

The biggest pivot of the year, Kehoe said, was switching to online events. The store partners with the Lewes Library and the History Book Festival for digital events, and since May they've had three or four Zoom events each week. She added that Browseabout was lucky to be one of the handful of stores that Elin Hilderbrand visited in person for her recent book tour. --Alex Mutter

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

Uncle Hugo's/Uncle Edgar's Struggles to Rebuild

Don Blyly, owner of Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore and Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore, Minneapolis, Minn., which were burned to the ground in the protests in late May after the murder of George Floyd by city police, continues to struggle in an effort to rebuild the "Uncles." His GoFundMe campaign remains open and has raised almost $170,000 toward its goal of $500,000.

The Star-Tribune outlined a key problem Blyly faces, one that is not faced by businesses in neighboring St. Paul: "Minneapolis requires owners to prepay the second half of their 2020 property taxes in order to obtain a demolition permit. St. Paul does not.

" 'Minneapolis has not been particularly friendly toward business for some time,' said Blyly, who prepaid $8,847 in taxes last week but still hasn't received his demolition permit. 'They say they want to be helpful, but they certainly have not been.'

"City officials say their hands are tied, pointing to a state law that prohibits the removal of any structures or standing timber until all of the taxes assessed against the building have been fully paid.

"The law, however, leaves enforcement to the county, and Hennepin County officials said they made it clear to the city of Minneapolis this summer that they would not enforce the requirement for any riot-damaged properties.

" 'We don't feel like we have an ability to block these permits, and I don't see why we would,' said Derrick Hodge, one of the managers in Hennepin County's property tax office. 'One of our missions in the county is to reduce disparities, and if we took action to block these permits, that would arguably be creating more disparities instead of reducing disparities.' "

The paper noted that about 100 properties were destroyed or severely damaged in the protests and estimated that most property owners must pay $35,000-$100,000 to clear the debris on their sites--before they can even start construction. "On average, the owners of properties destroyed or significantly damaged owe $25,000 in taxes for the second half of 2020, which come due in October, according to a Star Tribune review of county property records."

Blyly's other problems include a neighboring business whose contractor destroyed several shared walls owned by Blyly and pushed the debris into the Uncles' space; water bills (the city says that the water into the ruined location may not have been turned off, and the meter is buried under debris); and clearing up invoices and getting credits for undelivered books has been taking a lot of time.

German Government'a $23.6M Bookstorea/Publishera Stimulus Package

As part of its "Neustart Kultur" (New Start Culture) stimulus package, the German government is giving €20 million (about $23.6 million) to booksellers and publishers, Börsenblatt reported. The emphasis for bookstores (stores with sales of up to $2.36 million last year) is on digitizing the book supply chain, including everything from new systems, to creating user-friendly websites to continued training for staff. Grants to stores will range from €1,500 ($1,770) to €7,500 ($8,850). The emphasis for publishers is on help for new titles that would not otherwise appear. Other parts of the Neustart Kultur program will directly benefit other parts of the industry, including authors and book fairs. The application process begins September 1, and is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Introducing the stimulus package at the Literaturhaus in Berlin, German Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters said, "Publishers and bookstores are the lifeblood of our book industry. That's why we are supporting them in the current crisis and strengthening their ability to compete. We are making it possible for publishers again to publish new titles. And we are helping bookstores to build their online activity." She added that through the stimulus the whole chain of book creators will benefit, including agents, authors, translators and graphic artists.

Alexander Skipis, head of the Börsenverein, the German book industry association, called the package "an important signal" that, after the losses suffered by book publishers and bookstores after the spring lockdown, is "life affirming" for the business.

He added that the support was not only financially meaningful but showed how the book world is valued. "The last weeks have shown what a decisive contribution the book industry makes to society. The book is firmly anchored in society. People value the book as a jumping point for the imagination, inspiration and discussion in times of crisis."

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, chair of the Börsenverein, added that although bookstores and publishers have met the challenges of the Corona crisis with creativity and engagement, the lockdown had a major effect on the book world, which included some books' publications being postponed or cancelled. "Works of younger, newly discovered authors present a special publishing risk, and are threatened with not appearing, which is an alarming signal for an industry that lives from diversity. The stimulus contributes to a continued wide cultural diversity in the book world."


Calif. Wildfires: Bookshop Santa Cruz's Keep Kids Reading Fundraiser

Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., has launched a Keep Kids Reading Fundraiser to benefit kids affected by the ongoing Lightning Complex Fires.

"Like so many others, Bookshop has been thinking about how we can best support our community through this crisis," the store wrote. "Bookshop Santa Cruz is directing our Keep Kids Reading fundraising efforts toward young readers affected by the wildfires in our community. Funds donated will be used to buy books for children who lost their homes and belongings in the fires. Bookshop will coordinate with local public school librarians to identify the families in need and to construct libraries to replace cherished titles. Books will be bought at a discount to ensure that the funds will go farther."

Bookshop Santa Cruz, which has donated more than 10 boxes of books, games and activity books to adults and children at various evacuation centers in coordination with the Red Cross, noted: "We are putting together additional donation boxes every day to continue to supply these comforts to families who have been displaced."

Bookstore Video: How to Wear a Mask

Schuler Books, with stores in Okemos and Grand Rapids, Mich., shared a funny, helpful, time-traveling How to Wear a Mask video, noting: "What do you get when you take the current pandemic, mash it up with the 1918 pandemic, and add a silly bookseller? An old timey silent video on the correct way to mask!"

Chalkboard: Folio Books

"New sidewalk sign up at the store! Thanks Ali for your calligraphy magic," Folio Books, San Francisco, Calif., posted on Facebook. The chalkboard's message: "Our store is closed (for browsing), but our hearts (and our pick-up window) are open."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Trey Gowdy on Colbert's Late Show

The View repeat: Susan Rice, author of Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For (Simon & Schuster, $20, 9781501189982).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Trey Gowdy, author of Doesn't Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade (Crown Forum, $28, 9780593138915).

TV: Gaiman Update on The Sandman Netflix Series

On a DC FanDome panel Saturday, Neil Gaiman updated fans on the The Sandman, the Warner Bros TV project that was given an 11-episode series order by Netflix last year, Variety reported. The Covid-19 pandemic had forced the production to shut down in mid-March.

Gaiman revealed that he had been using the downtime to get the script as "close to perfect as we can.... Right now as the universal pause button is starting to come off, we're starting to cast again. I'm getting these inspiring and wonderful e-mails with production designs with places that I'd only ever seen in the comics before, now being rendered in 3D, and I'm being asked to comment on it. That's amazing."

He also said the Netflix series is "still going to start in 1916, but the thing that happens in Sandman 1, the point that the story starts is not 1988. It's now. And how does that change the story? What does that give us? What does that make us have to look at that we wouldn't have to look at if we were setting it as a period piece? What is that going to do to the gender of characters, what is that going to do to the nature of characters? What's that going to do to the story? And that has been an absolute delight. Because it means we are always being true to the story and being true to the characters. But it gives us tremendous freedom to go, 'Okay if we were doing it now what would Sandman be?' And that, again, is very liberating."

Books & Authors

Awards: James Tait Black Winners

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann has won the 2020 James Tait Black Prize for Fiction and The Photographer at Sixteen: The Death and Life of a Fighter by George Szirtes has won the 2020 James Tait Black Prize for Biography. The £10,000 (about $13,125) prizes were presented during the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which was held virtually this year.

Fiction judge Dr. Ben Bateman said, "Lucy Ellman's book is an experimental and encyclopedic account of one woman's worries large and small in Donald Trump's America. Ducks, Newburyport is the novel of our maddening moment."

Biography judge Dr. Simon Cooke commented: "George Szirtes' reverse chronological portrait of the woman who was his mother is a piercingly beautiful memoir-as-prose-poem, as generous as it is scrupulous in its searching meditation on a death and life, on memory and history, and on how we imagine the lives of those we love."

Top Library Recommended Titles for September

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 September titles public library staff across the country love:

Top Pick
When No One Is Watching: A Thriller by Alyssa Cole (Morrow, $16.99, 9780062982650). "The gentrification of her beloved Brooklyn neighborhood has longtime resident Sydney Green mourning what's lost. Striking up an uneasy alliance with new neighbor Theo, she starts research for a walking tour to highlight the area's rich history and diversity but quickly comes to realize that something far more sinister is going on. A sense of mounting dread and some startling twists and turns will keep readers turning the pages. Where HAVE all those old neighbors gone? For fans of An Unwanted Guest, The Woman in Cabin Ten, and Watching You." --Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, N.Y.

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher (Ace, $28, 9780593199305). "Battle Ground has more at stake than any previous book in the Dresden Files series, and more changes for Harry. Filled to the brim with non-stop action, this entry has Harry and almost every supernatural being he knows coming to defend Chicago from a mad Titan bent on reshaping reality. For fans of Mercy Thompson series (Briggs) and the Iron Druid Chronicles (Hearne)." --Dan Brooks, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, N.C.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Viking, $26, 9780525559474). "At a seminal moment in her life, Nora visits a unique library. Every book she chooses is one that she becomes part of and is a possible life she might have led. There are adventures, close calls, and joy. Give this totally engrossing page turner to fans of Here and Now and Then (Chen) and Life after Life (Atkinson)." --Deborah Margeson, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, Colo.

Monogamy: A Novel by Sue Miller (Harper, $28.99, 9780062969651). "Annie and Graham have been married for 30 years. When Graham unexpectedly dies, Annie finds out he had a recent affair. As she reevaluates her relationship and deals with feelings of anger and betrayal, a few secrets in her own past are revealed. This story of grief, sadness, and acceptance is perfect for fans of Hausfrau and Unsheltered." --Laura Fowler, J.V. Fletcher Library, Westford, Mass.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, $27, 9781635575637). "Piranesi is the sole inhabitant of a mysterious 'house' with endless rooms full of statues and a surging ocean below. With lyrical and hypnotic writing in his journal, he guides readers through his beloved labyrinthine home and introduces 'The Other,' a sporadic visitor and the only other living human being... or so he thought. For fans of The Starless Sea and The Bedlam Stacks." --Catherine Tarver, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, Ill.

A Rogue of One's Own by Evie Dunmore (Berkley, $16, 9781984805706). "The second book in the League of Extraordinary Women series revolves around Lady Lucie and her old nemesis Lord Ballentine. Their love/hate relationship is passionate and steamy. For fans of the Royal Wedding series and Dukes Behaving Badly series." --Natalie Peitsinovski, Roselle Public Library, Roselle, N.J.

The Roommate by Rosie Danan (Berkley, $16, 9780593101605). "When Clara decides to move from New York to Los Angeles to live with her forever crush/childhood best friend Everett, he tells her he is going on the road with his band all summer, but not to worry, he has a roommate lined up for her. This roommate, it turns out, works in the adult entertainment industry. For readers who enjoyed My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Lauren)." --Afton Finley, Waseca Library, Waseca, Minn.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf, $27.95, 9780525658184). "Gyasi is a force of a writer and in her new novel, Gifty is a Ph.D. student of neuroscience fueled by the need to understand her brother's addiction and mother's depression. For fans of Imagine Me Gone (Haslet) and Chemistry (Wang)." --Kari Bingham-Gutierrez, Olathe Public Library, Olathe, Kan.

Well Played by Jen DeLuca (Berkley, $16, 9781984805409). "Upon hearing of Simon and Emily's engagement, best friend Stacey is jolted into reevaluating her own life. Stacey reaches out to her old Ren Faire flame, Dex, but accidentally connects with Daniel, Dex's cousin. When their friendly messages turn into something more, Stacey is faced with a surprise upon learning of the identity of her online paramour. For readers who enjoyed 99 Percent Mine (Thorne)." --Morgan Malyn, Clermont County Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio

The Writer's Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager (HarperOne, $27.99, 9780062968500). "As someone who loves reading, books, and talking about books, this was perfect for me. I found it fascinating to get a glimpse of what books influenced such an eclectic group of writers. It made me look at my own reading history and at books and reading in a different way. For fans of My Life with Bob (Paul)." --Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cuyahoga, Ohio

Book Review

Review: The Big Door Prize

The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh (Putnam, $27 hardcover, 384p., 9780735218482, September 8, 2020)

The Big Door Prize tackles the existential question "Why would you think there's another life for you, perhaps another possibility inside of you already...?" M.O. Walsh (My Sunshine Away) crafts a surprising and heartwarming contemporary drama about looking back and looking forward. A machine, DNAMIX, shows up in a small Louisiana town to reveal "your potential in life, what your body and mind are capable of doing." Walsh clearly understands the tendency for middle-aged people to look in the rearview mirror and second-guess their choices.

Cherilyn's DNAMIX readout is "Royalty," and she immediately believes the machine sees beyond her housewife exterior. "So many things I've never tried," she cries. Her husband, Douglas, for his part, is reluctant to use the machine. The whole procedure seems laughable, but even so, he acknowledges that he, too, has "hit a wall in his life" and that it's time to "make big-picture changes."

Juxtaposed with adult angst is a sympathetic portrait of the prospects for contemporary teenagers in a world not of their making. Jacob, a high-schooler, grapples with life after the accidental death of his popular twin brother, Toby. Jacob doesn't need a machine to foresee that his future looks desolate. His mother died young, his father is acting like a cowboy after his DNAMIX reading, and there are unsettling rumors about the night of Toby's death. "What could he do to better himself? To move forward? Was that even a thing he wanted?" The turmoil that's often part of teenage experience in the best of times is heightened not only by his family trauma but also by Trina, Toby's girlfriend, who talks of revenge--of blueprints and guns and backpacks. Jacob is drawn into a suspenseful plot that creates unexpected suspense involving the entire town.

The adults in this story have been unwilling and unused to contemplating their life choices, and their discomfort, by turns funny and melancholy, will be familiar to many. Too, Walsh's suggestion that teenagers, closely watching the adults around them, have a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the compromises they'll make as adults is often painfully accurate. Because each "choice we make today is an extension of, and an opportunity arisen from, the choices we have previously made and will make in the future," readers of this singular, nuanced story will, quite possibly and without a machine as prompt, undertake their own personal reflection. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Shelf Talker: Residents in a small Louisiana town deal with the surprising yet heartwarming fallout when a machine reveals what their lives should be instead of what they are.

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