Shelf Awareness for Thursday, August 27, 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


B&N to Close 'Iconic' Baltimore Inner Harbor Store

Barnes & Noble will close its iconic store at the Power Plant in Baltimore's Inner Harbor by the end of the week, WJZ13 reported. In a statement, B&N said while it had been a privilege to run the store as "one of the most distinctive bookstores of the United States," those attributes made it "extraordinarily expensive" to operate and maintain.

B&N added: "We have been honored to serve customers from the Power Plant bookstore since it opened in 1998 and appreciate their loyalty and support. We also thank the wonderful booksellers who worked at this store and will seek to transfer as many as is possible to one of our other Baltimore-area stores."

The company said it "will focus resources on improving other stores in the area and around the country, as well as invest in new stores--one of which is now in Rockville, Md.," WJZ13 noted.

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: Drive-by Events; Just-in-Time Inventory; Masks Encouraged

In Montrose, Calif., Once Upon a Time is open seven days a week, with hours reduced by about 20%. Owner Maureen Palacios reported that she and her team have started an appointment system for shopping, which has "worked beautifully." Many of the store's customers have been shopping there for decades, she explained, so they feel confident coming in for a private appointment.

The store is fairly small, so only four people are allowed in at a time without an appointment. There are plexiglass barriers at the cash wrap, and Palacios replaced her old credit card machines with machines that can handle contactless payment. She also keeps the front and back doors open to help with ventilation. Palacios said she's encountered only minimal resistance from folks not wanting to wear masks. A bigger issue has been large groups of customers arriving without an appointment and getting frustrated when told that they can't all enter at the same time.

Palacios noted that the store is still operating with a "skeleton crew," due to several employees being in the high-risk category, and as such they have not yet fully embraced virtual events. The store has, however, done some "drive-by" events, with the author set up just inside the store. Customers can come up to the door to speak to the author without entering. Palacios said these events work well if the author is very well known or if they do a storytime/presentation.

Online orders are still keeping Palacios and her team busy, and she said she's not using Ingram DTH service as the "metrics were not advantageous to us." Once Upon a Time is offering local delivery, curbside pick-up and has ramped up telephone sales. In fact, Palacios is considering getting a store cell phone to handle some of the long customer service calls and text messages that have translated into "great sales."

The store is located in an outdoor shopping park, Palacios continued, and one challenge has simply been letting customers know that they're open. On one side of the store there's a building that has been vacant for nine years and currently has scaffolding all over it, and there are vacant restaurants both adjacent to the store and across the street. To let customers know that the bookstore is open, the team has put several large pinwheels outside that "twirl away in the breeze," which helps grab people's attention.

On the subject of buying for the fall, Palacios said her strategy has been a bit "hit and miss" so far. Normally her store carries a large selection of gift items during the fourth quarter, but she and her team decided early on to limit their gift selection this year to ornaments and other small items. The store's book buying, meanwhile, has been done on an almost month-to-month basis throughout the pandemic.

Palacios pointed out that her store has always advocated for more representation in literature, especially children's literature, and Once Upon A Time's buying, displays and events reflects that priority.


Nantucket Bookworks in Nantucket, Mass., reopened at a limited capacity in June. Owner Wendy Morton Hudson said masks are required and hand sanitizer is plentiful. They've also put hula hoops and sidewalk chalk outside to help keep customers amused while they wait to enter the store.

While mask compliance has not been a major issue all told, some parents have gotten annoyed when their children were asked to put on masks and, Hudson said, "a few bad apples can really ruin the day." Reminding people to socially distance and stay apart from each other is a much more frequent struggle.

When asked about ordering for the fall, Hudson said she's cut everything down drastically and she and her team are "really relying on just-in-time inventory more than ever." She also plans to make a much bigger push for web orders this holiday season, given how much online sales have increased this year.

Hudson added that her customers have been incredibly supportive throughout all this, and she's "never been so happy to have our Indiebound site." All told, she continues to be surprised by how busy it's been. July and August are the store's biggest months, and she said she feels "like we've been racing the clock every day to get through the season without the governor rolling us back to a phase where we can't be open."

Earlier in the summer there were two large Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Nantucket. The store put up BLM signage in its front windows and has also prominently featured books by BIPOC authors in its front-of-store displays all season long.


April Gorski, manager of Book Vault in Oskaloosa, Iowa, said the store is open to the public, with shortened hours and at reduced capacity. She noted that while all staff members are wearing masks, the state of Iowa has not issued a mask mandate and so the store has not made them mandatory for customers. Mask-wearing is appreciated and encouraged, and most customers are wearing them anyway and being considerate of the store's policies.

Looking ahead to the fall, Gorski said the store has reduced its book orders, and when it comes to sourcing gift items, they are shopping online rather than attending markets or gift shows. --Alex Mutter

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

Indies Unite for Bronx Independent Bookstore Day

Independent bookstores Boogie Down Books and Bronx Bound Books are teaming up with The Bronx Is Reading, the organization behind the Bronx Book Festival, for Bronx Independent Bookstore Day.

This Saturday they'll come together for an open mic, book and swag giveaways, virtual author appearances and more. C.G. Esperanza, an author and illustrator in the Bronx, has designed a custom poster for the day. Author appearances will include writers Laura Perdew (The Fort) and Minh Lê (Drawn Together); the open mic will be hosted at 8 p.m. Saturday night.

Founded by Latanya DeVaughn, Bronx Bound Books is a Black-owned bookstore on wheels that travels the borough with the goal of leaving no community behind. Boogie Down Books is owned by Rebekah Shoaf and is a bookstore-without-walls that hosts community events and seeeks to amplify literature by and about members of underrepresented communities.

The Bronx Is Reading runs a pop-up shop at the Andrew Freeman Home on the Grand Concourse and an online bookstore, and organizes literary events. Saraciea Fennell founded the organization in 2016.

Obituary Note: Geoffrey Nunberg

Geoffrey Nunberg, the linguist and author whose "elegant essays and books explained to a general audience how English has adapted to changes in politics, popular culture and technology," died on August 11, the New York Times reported. He was 75.

His scholarly work covered "a broad range of subjects, including semantics and pragmatics--the context in which language is used--as well as information access, language policy, multilingualism and the cultural implications of digital technology," the Times wrote.

Nunberg's books included Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Confrontational Times (2001), in which he discussed President George W. Bush's pronunciation of the word "nuclear," suggesting the president knew the right pronunciation but used the wrong one intentionally, either from "Pentagon wiseguys" or as a "faux bubba thing."

In 2012, Nunberg published Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years, in which he focused on, he wrote, "a word we reserve for members of our own tribe: the boss who takes credit for your work, the neighbors who get on your case for putting out your garbage the night before, or maybe a well-known politician or celebrity."

His other books were three collections, The Way We Talk Now (2001), The Years of Talking Dangerously (2009), and Talking Right (2006), about the way Republicans and conservatives have transformed political language.

Nunberg also was a regular commentator on NPR's Fresh Air, contributing essays that explored words like "disinformation," "disruption" and "selfie"; phrases like "tell it like it is" and "the deep state"; and broader subjects like the way millennials speak.

Last year on Fresh Air, he discussed gender-neutral pronouns, urging listeners to "tweak your internal grammar" to refer to an individual as "they." "It takes some practice to get the hang of it," he said, "but the human language processing capacity is more adaptable than people realize, even for geezers like me. As I read through an article about a nonbinary person who uses 'they,' 'them' and 'their,' the pronouns ultimately sort themselves out."

Shelf Awareness Delivers Indie Pre-Order E-Blast

Yesterday, Shelf Awareness sent our monthly pre-order e-blast to more than half a million of the country's best book readers. The e-blast went to 507,023 customers of 105 participating independent bookstores.

The mailing features eight upcoming titles selected by Shelf Awareness editors and a sponsored title. Customers can buy these books via "pre-order" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on each sending store's website. A key feature is that bookstore partners can easily change title selections to best reflect the tastes of their customers and can customize the mailing with links, images and promotional copy of their own.

The pre-order e-blasts are sent the last Wednesday of each month; the next will go out on Wednesday, September 30. Stores interested in learning more can visit our program registration page or contact our partner program team via e-mail.

For a sample of yesterday's pre-order e-blast, see this one from Blue House Books, Kenosha, Wis.


Image of the Day: Love Sold Separately at Book Revue

Ellen Meister celebrated the publication of Love Sold Separately (Mira) with a virtual event at Book Revue, Huntington, N.Y. She stopped in on Monday--"pen-in-hand and mask-on-face"--to sign copies before they were shipped.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jon Meacham on the Today Show

Today Show: Jon Meacham, author of His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope (Random House, $30, 9781984855022).

This Weekend on Book TV: Susan Eisenhower on Her Grandfather

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, August 29
12:15 p.m. Francine Hirsch, author of Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal after World War II (Oxford University Press, $34.95, 9780199377930), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

4:35 p.m. Jean Guererro, author of Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda (Morrow, $28.99, 9780062986719), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.

7 p.m. Lisa Selin Davis, author of Tomboy: The Surprising History and Future of Girls Who Dare to Be Different (Hachette Go, $28, 9780316458313), at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt. (Re-airs Monday at 4 a.m.)

Sunday, August 30
5 p.m. Morgan Jerkins, author of Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots (Harper, $27.99, 9780062873040), at the Strand in New York City.

9 p.m. Edward Ball, author of Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28, 9780374186326). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

10 p.m. Susan Eisenhower, author of How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower's Biggest Decisions (Thomas Dunne, $29.99, 9781250238771).

11:15 p.m. Judy Gold, author of Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble (Dey Street, $22.99, 9780062953759). 

Books & Authors

Awards: International Booker Winner

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated from Dutch by Michele Hutchison, won the 2020 International Booker Prize, which celebrates a work of fiction, translated into English and published in the U.K. The £50,000 (about $65,995) award is divided equally between author and translator. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000 (about $1,320).

Chair of the judges Ted Hodgkinson said: "We set ourselves an immense task in selecting a winner from our superb shortlist, filled with fiction bold enough to upend mythic foundations and burst the banks of the novel itself. From this exceptional field, and against an extraordinary backdrop, we were looking for a book that goes beyond echoing our dystopian present and possesses a timeless charge. Combining a disarming new sensibility with a translation of singular sensitivity, The Discomfort of Evening is a tender and visceral evocation of a childhood caught between shame and salvation, and a deeply deserving winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize."

B&N's Most Anticipated September Titles

Barnes & Noble's 15 most anticipated September books:

1. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf)
2. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
3. Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown)
4. The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Little, Brown)
5. Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins)
6. Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie (Dutton)
7. Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy by Ben Macintyre (Crown)
8. The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions)
9. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine)
10. Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Rey (Simon & Schuster)
11. A Tale of Witchcraft… by Chris Colfer (Little, Brown)
12. Eat a Peach by David Chang and Gabe Ulla (Clarkson Potter)
13. Jack by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
14. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Viking)
15. Whale Day: And Other Poems by Billy Collins (Random House)

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, September 1:

Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President by Michael S. Schmidt (Random House, $30, 9781984854667) chronicles how sane government officials blunted some of Trump's most destructive plans.

Having and Being Had by Eula Biss (Riverhead, $26, 9780525537458) is a personal exploration of capitalism and affluence.

Ruthie Fear: A Novel by Maxim Loskutoff (Norton, $26.95, 9780393635560) follows a girl raised in a small Montana community.

The Last Story of Mina Lee: A Novel by Nancy Jooyoun Kim (Park Row, $27.99, 9780778310174) takes place in Los Angeles, where a Korean woman deals with her mother's mysterious death.

As the Shadow Rises by Katy Rose Pool (Holt, $19.99, 9781250211774) is the second book in her YA Age of Darkness series.

Wild Symphony by Dan Brown, illus. by Susan Batori (Rodale Kids, $18.99, 9780593123843) is a picture book with an interactive app that plays original musical compositions for each page.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hieroglyphics: A Novel by Jill McCorkle (Algonquin, $26.95, 9781616209728). "Jill McCorkle's latest novel, Hieroglyphics, tackles early loss and how its memory persists in the minds of those who experience it. McCorkle weaves the stories of four unassuming characters and their individual traumas into a braided cord of empathy, revelation, and survival. Her storytelling skill is in high gear in this quiet yet deeply insightful drama that will remain in the reader's mind long after the final page." --Linda Kass, Gramercy Books, Bexley, Ohio

The Eighth Detective: A Novel by Alex Pavesi (Holt, $26.99, 9781250755933). "For an avid mystery reader, this book is deeply satisfying. Short stories are picked apart by a young editor and an older author who are looking for a mathematical standard to the classic detective novel. Each story depicts a variation of victim, killer, and detective, and contains clues to yet another mystery involving the author. Puzzles bloom within puzzles, and the final reveal... well, no spoilers from me, but it was unexpected in the best way!" --Liesl Freudenstein, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo.

You Had Me at Hola: A Novel by Alexis Daria (Avon, $15.95, 9780062959928). "I don't have enough superlatives to do this book justice. Everything is spot on, from the chemistry between the main characters to the telenovela drama to the meddling but supportive cousins. I love all the Spanish, the backstage glimpses into the making of a TV show (especially the inclusion of the intimacy coordinator), and the way the telenovela tropes, like a secret child, are woven into the grounded romance. Now I just hope Michelle and Ava get their own books soon!" --Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
Every Little Letter by Deborah Underwood, illus. by Joy Huang Ruiz (Dial Books, $17.99, 9780525554028). "A really lovely book about breaking down walls and working together. With so many books out there about coming together, this one goes beyond to incorporate the alphabet and word-learning, as well as the importance of listening to young people. The illustrations are warm and the cuteness helps deliver the empathetic message for our youngest readers." --Tildy Banker-Johnson, Belmont Books, Belmont, Mass.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo (Scholastic Press, $17.99, 9781338561593). "Cattywampus is filled with raccoon familiars, magic, and two kids aimed at saving their town from generations of zombie ancestors brought on by a spell gone bad! I loved the sense of place Ash Van Otterloo has brought to this book, plus the wonderful language and some beautiful representation." --Nathaniel Hattrick, Ballast Book Company, Bremerton, Wash.

For Teen Readers
Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston (Quirk Books, $18.99, 9781683691938). "I devoured this book in one perfect sitting. I relished every bit of Rosie and Vance's hard-won romance, every cozy moment in the library, and the Howl's Moving Castle references. There's just nothing out there quite like the Once Upon a Con series; it's geeky, witty, and genuinely comforting." --Anna Bright, One More Page Books, Arlington, Va.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays

Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays by Robert Michael Pyle (Counterpoint, $16.95 paperback, 288p., 9781640092761, September 15, 2020)

After decades of writing and naturalist study, Robert Michael Pyle (Wintergreen; Where Bigfoot Walks) thoughtfully collects essays on a theme in Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays. He conceives of a single, interconnected whole, not a binary of natural and non-natural worlds, but an organism of which humans are an inextricable (if often unaware) part. He explores the "extinction of experience" that threatens our future, defines his religion as "Alltheism" (with nods to Darwin, Muir and Kurt Cobain) and envisions wilderness as a continuum, with some version of the wild existing in every vacant lot and on every street corner. The introduction, "Pyrex, Postcards, and Panzers," makes the point nicely: it took both pretty pictures and tanks to teach the author about the interrelatedness of the natural world--which is to say, simply, the world.

With 24 books to his credit and having studied, written, lived and taught all over the world, Pyle has a broad and rich body of work to draw on for this collection, first conceived of (by this title) in the late 1960s. Nature Matrix as published in 2020 may contain different essays than 1970's would have, but the principle remains faithful. These 15 essays (ranging back to 1969, five of them previously unpublished) cover classic Pyle territory: butterflies, conservation, quiet appreciation of the outdoors.

Also included are a profile of John Jacob Astor I and arguments for reading hardcopy books rather than screens and for Bright Lights, Big City as an "elegant ethology of one species of upright hominoid ape under the influence of one species of plant in the contemporary canyonlands." Nabokov is a recurring character (for his literary and visual arts and his lepidoptery), alongside "the High Line Canal, an irrigation ditch coursing the altitudinal contours across the landscapes of Greater Denver, carrying Platte River water from its mouth at the edge of the Rockies out onto the plains near the present Denver International Airport," where the author as a child first learned to observe and love the details of the natural world.

Pyle's voice varies from cantankerous to droll, awe-filled to academic; his characters and fascinations are equally wide-ranging. After all this, "In some ways am I right back where I started: fascinated by a stump on the corner." It is the persistent note of wonder as much as his impressive depth of knowledge and passion that makes Nature Matrix a remarkable addition to Pyle's life's work. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Collected essays arguing for nature as a unified matrix serve as an excellent introduction to the work of this veteran writer, or a continuing pleasure for readers in the know.

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