Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, September 2, 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

'Librarians Are My Superheroes'


"Librarians are my superheroes.... I would be dead if it weren't for libraries. My father had PTSD and was an alcoholic because of his war experience, and I was raped when I was 13 and didn't tell anybody for decades. I was a mess. I was cutting class, I was getting high, and the library was my sanctuary. The librarians knew I just needed to read. And the space and diving into books kept me alive for many paralysis years.

"One of my proudest connections to libraries is that my older daughter, Stephanie, is a librarian in New York City. Her library life started when I took her for storytimes and puppet shows, and to borrow about a million books... that's when I knew she had found her path. Librarians and libraries are the heart of American communities, and we have to keep fighting to make sure they are supported robustly."

--Author Laurie Halse Anderson in a q&a with American Libraries magazine

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


Bertelsmann 'Interested' in Buying Simon & Schuster


Bertelsmann, the owner of Penguin Random House, already the world's largest book publisher, is "interested" in buying Simon & Schuster, the Financial Times reported. S&S owner ViacomCBS said earlier this year that it wants to sell the publisher, but the pandemic has held up the process.

Bertelsmann CEO and chairman Thomas Rabe told the Financial Times, "We've been the most active player on the consolidation of the book publishing market in the last 10 years. We combined Penguin and Random House very successfully to create by far the largest book publisher in the world, actually the only global book publisher. Given this position we would, of course, be interested in Simon & Schuster."

Rabe added that in the aftermath of the pandemic, he expects "a wave of [media] consolidation" and wants Bertelsmann "to buttress its position against global tech platforms by leading dealmaking across sectors such as television and book publishing," the Financial Times wrote.

In April, Bertelsmann completed its purchase of the last part of Penguin Random House still owned by Pearson. And in its six-month financial report yesterday, Bertelsmann's overall sales fell 8.9%, but PRH was down only 1.4%.

In March, ViacomCBS put S&S up for sale. At an investment conference, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish characterized S&S as "not a core asset" and said that ViacomCBS is seeking cash to spend on its video-streaming business, adding that the company has received "multiple, unsolicited inbound calls" about S&S.

At the time, citing sources, the Wall Street Journal said ViacomCBS was seeking at least $1.2 billion for S&S and that "possible suitors" included Hachette and HarperCollins. S&S sales in 2019 were $814 million.

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

The Soul Book Nook Opening in Waterloo, Iowa

Amber Collins at The Soul Book Nook

The Soul Book Nook will open at 110 E. Fourth St. in Waterloo, Iowa, on Saturday. Owner Amber Collins had tentatively planned a September 1 launch, but posted on Facebook Sunday: "Due to the overwhelming response and support we will be rescheduling our grand opening to Saturday, September 5th so that we can further accommodate the community and adhere to the public health requirements for Covid-19. Your continued support and encouragement is greatly appreciated."

Collins credits her mother for her love of reading. "As a girl, Collins would hop a plane, train or bus from Waterloo to south-central Los Angeles to spend summers with her mom--an avid reader, writer and poet who loved to send Collins books from her travels abroad," the Courier reported. "Part of that was taking her daughter to the Aquarian Bookshop.... The shop, which historians believe was the longest continuously-Black-owned bookstore in the U.S., was transformative for the young Collins, who recalled meeting black authors and celebrities at the store in the late 1980s."

"When I was little, she started to birth that love of reading and literacy," Collins said. "That was when I knew that I would one day own a bookstore. As I got older, that vision of what I would have in the book shop kept materializing."

With the help of her five daughters, including Shalaya, whose artwork will decorate the space, Collins said the Soul Book Nook is "going to be a place where, when you walk into it, you're gonna find the section that makes you feel like you belong."

While opening a new bookstore during the Covid-19 pandemic presented unusual challenges, "she's planned for that, noting she'll be taking reservations for groups to come in, and if she has live musicians or poets, they'll be in an upstairs loft with a window open to ventilate the air," the Courier wrote.

"I'm gonna tell you the truth: It was day by day. This is what I believe: The Holy Spirit was giving me direction," said Collins, who will also sell products from her wellness site, the Healing Source, and plans to offer book clubs, featured authors and hot beverages. "Physically coming to read a book, I believe, is fundamental to the well-being of a person's thoughts and minds and what they're feeling at the time. Come visit, come browse.... This is community."

Collins told KWWL News that books can help teens of color see themselves represented: "They don't have to be limited to a book where the story is always told that they ended up in teen pregnancy or the hero in the story is in a gang and gets killed, then their friends got killed. They need to see themselves in history, they need to see themselves in science, they need to see themselves adding to the power, education, and history of the country.... Everyone is welcome. There is a book here for everyone."

N.C.'s Read with Me Fundraising for 'Next Phase'

Read with Me, a children's book and art shop in Raleigh, N.C., "is seeking support for its next phase that includes an adult book corner," WRAL5 reported. The bookshop, which is located downtown near Marbles Kids Museum, opened three years ago and has an art gallery and workshop space that, "before the pandemic, was a popular spot for children's birthday parties, summer camps and other programs for kids."

With foot traffic down as much as 80%, however, owner Christine Brenner plans to turn the workshop space into a book corner for adults. Her long-term vision had always been to add adult titles, but the novel coronavirus has hastened the expansion and she has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $12,500 for the initiative.

"During Covid, I've seen a lot of bookstores around the country turn to their community for support through GoFundMe and it inspired us to do the same," Brenner said. "The outpouring of support we've received the past few years and especially the past few months has been so heartwarming. We truly appreciate our community so much and believe this change will be the best way for us to serve you all in the short and long term. We're so lucky to be a part of this downtown community and this GoFundMe is one of several steps we are taking to ensure we're here for the long term."

Brenner has also been hosting virtual programs, including a middle grade virtual book club now, and plans to continue to offer online creative resources until it is safe to meet in-person again. "There are so many local resources for education, story time and creativity, like Kid Lab, Wake County Library, Marbles, and many more. Our focus the next few months will be to highlight and support those creators and focus our limited resources on the bookshop.”

Obituary Note: Julia Reed

Julia Reed

Julia Reed, "writer, woman of letters, connoisseur, and tireless advocate for the renaissance of her native Mississippi Delta," died August 28, the Delta Democrat-Chronicle reported. She was 59.

"As an author, columnist, and speaker, Reed was a figure in the tradition of M.F.K. Fisher and of Edith Wharton," friend and author Jon Meacham wrote in a tribute in Garden & Gun magazine, where Reed was a longtime contributor. "If we'd tried to invent a character like Julia, nobody would have believed it. She was a tsunami of talent, charm, and energy. She could write about anything and make it sing. Her distinctive voice was at once affectionate and arch--a tough combination to pull off."

David DiBenedetto, Garden & Gun editor-in-chief, said, "When it comes to the loss of Julia Reed, the only word that seems appropriate is irreplaceable, as a friend, as a writer, as a dinner party guest, and as a cornerstone of Garden & Gun for the last decade.... She had an army of fans who were drawn to her smart, sometimes irreverent, fun-loving take on life. And part of the magic was her authenticity. Julia never had to fake a thing in her life. She was the real deal. And the world will be a lesser place without her."

Reed's books include Julia Reed's New Orleans: Food, Fun, and Field Trips for Letting the Good Times Roll (2019); South Toward Home: Adventures and Misadventures in My Native Land (2018); Julia Reed's South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long (2016); But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria: Adventures in Eating, Drinking and Making Merry (2014); The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story (2008); Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties: An Entertaining Life (2009); and The Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena (2005).

"Julia Reed was Mississippi's answer to Dorothy Parker, gifted with a biting wit, a fierce intellect and a generous spirit of hospitality," novelist Jay McInerney recalled. "She was an intellectual and a hedonist, a brilliant raconteur with a colorfully profane vocabulary who could whip up a delicious dinner for twenty of her friends and then drink them all under the table before waking up a few hours later to deliver a sparkling performance on MSNBC. She was unforgettable and irreplaceable."

Writer and friend Ellen Stimson posted on Facebook: "Julia liked her language just like she liked her tenderloin... salty. Whenever she turned up you knew things were about to get good. Her stories were hilarious and nuanced both. She missed nothing. She would have given Churchill a run for his money... in more ways than one. Julia had a wild talent and a glittering mind. I will miss her husky voice every day for the whole rest of my life. Course if she were reading this she'd remind me not to overwrite. 'Just say you miss me.' And I do. Oh how I do."


Image of the Day: Bookstore Owner's Sidewalk Signing

Linda Kass, owner of Gramercy Books, Bexley, Ohio, hosted a sidewalk signing for her own novel, A Ritchie Boy (published yesterday by She Writes Press). Customers stopped by to chat and get their books personalized--and meet Wally, the bookstore dog. Kass signed more than 80 copies over the course of the day.

Happy 30th, The Bookmark!

Congratulations to the BookMark, Neptune Beach, Fla., which celebrated its 30th anniversary over the weekend, posting on Facebook last Friday: "Tomorrow (Saturday) is Independent Bookstore Day. It's a day to celebrate locally owned independent bookstores everywhere. The BookMark is proud to be part of this group. And we're proud (and grateful) to be marking our 30th birthday! Although we can't toast the occasion with you in person this year, we will raise a glass to us and to all of you who make 'us' possible. I hope you'll join us wherever you are. Thank you from all of us at The BookMark."

On Monday, the BookMark shared a photo of owner Rona Brinlee with a celebratory cake: "Thanks for all your birthday wishes and kind thoughts.  I was very sad that we weren't going to get to celebrate The BookMark's 30th birthday together, and I missed you.  But your messages meant so much and made me realize how lucky I am to have all of you in my life.  And, thanks to everyone here at the store, we did get to celebrate and even shared a cake baked by a BookMark friend."

Election-Themed Window Display: Copperfield's Petaluma

Copperfield's Books in Petaluma, Calif., "is taking the upcoming election seriously, and has devoted the main entrance window to a display that not only encourages people to vote, it informs them how to check if they're registered, what California's voting deadlines are, and provides a QR code that links directly to the Voter Registration page," noted children's events coordinator Patty Norman. "Customers can literally sign up while standing in the doorway. Also, rabble-rousing with the best of them, Battle Bunny is weighing in with the importance of civic responsibility."

Bookseller Moment: Pages Bookshop

Pages Bookshop, Detroit, Mich.: "The new normal. Store update: we are still working on transitioning from a shipping warehouse back to a browsable store. This time has given us the chance to rethink our inventory and layout, and we're pretty happy with the results. Can't wait to show you all! Thanks for staying patient and continuing to support us (and the USPS!) during this surreal time."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jacqueline Woodson on CBS This Morning

CBS This Morning: Jacqueline Woodson, author of Before the Ever After (Nancy Paulsen, $17.99, 9780399545436).

Fresh Air: Michael S. Schmidt, author of Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President (Random House, $30, 9781984854667).

Today Show: Dr. Uma Naidoo, author of This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More (Little, Brown Spark, $28, 9780316536820).

TV: The Three-Body Problem

Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past) trilogy will be adapted as an original series by Netflix, which has been granted the rights from the Three-Body Universe and Yoozoo Group to the novel (as well as sequels The Dark Forest and Death's End) to produce an English-language series adaptation.

According to Peter Friedlander, Netflix v-p, original series drama, the streamer has assembled "a talented and thoughtful creative team to do so. Every person involved not only shares a passion and high esteem for the books, but also the creative vision and ambition to help bring this remarkable story to life for audiences around the world."

The creative team includes writers and executive producers David Benioff & D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones), and Alexander Woo (The Terror: Infamy, True Blood), as well as executive producers Rian Johnson and producing partner Ram Bergman (Looper, Knives Out, Star Wars: Episode VIII--The Last Jedi). 

"As soon as we started discussing this project, I would receive frequent e-mails from them and we would discuss the books compulsively whenever we were in touch. They are all fierce advocates for the source material," Friedlander noted, adding that "it was especially meaningful to us to get the support of Liu Cixin who created this expansive universe. Cixin has gone one step further and has joined as a consulting producer alongside Ken Liu, who wrote the English translation for The Three-Body Problem and Death's End. Having Cixin and Ken involved will help ensure that the spirit of the books remains intact."

Liu Cixin commented: "I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix."

Benioff and Weiss described the trilogy as "the most ambitious science-fiction series we've read, taking readers on a journey from the 1960s until the end of time, from life on our pale blue dot to the distant fringes of the universe. We look forward to spending the next years of our lives bringing this to life for audiences around the world."

Books & Authors

Awards: Indiana Authors Winners, McIlvanney Finalists

Eight works with Indiana connections were named winners of the 2020 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards. Created by Indiana Humanities with support from Glick Philanthropies, the awards are issued every other year. This year's winning titles are:

Children's: Attucks! Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose
Drama: The Jack Plays by James Still
Emerging: Driven: A White-Knuckled Ride to Heartbreak and Back by Melissa Stephenson
Fiction: The Life List of Adrian Mandrick by Chris White
Genre: Pimp My Airship by Maurice Broaddus
Nonfiction: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
Poetry: Sightseer in This Killing City by Eugene Gloria
YA: All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell


A shortlist has been released for Bloody Scotland's £1,000 (about $1,340) McIlvanney Prize for best Scottish crime book of the year. The winner will be announced September 18. This year's finalists are:

Whirligig by Andrew James Greig
A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone
The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry
Pine by Francine Toon

Reading with... Adam Rutherford

photo: Stefan Jakubowski

Adam Rutherford is a British geneticist and author. His A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, a National Book Critics Circle finalist, retells the story of humankind with DNA as the guide. His latest, How to Argue with a Racist (The Experiment, August 4, 2020), is a manifesto for using science as a weapon against bigotry.

On your nightstand now:

Pandora's Jar by Natalie Haynes, the British muse who retells classical tales with unmatched wit and elegance. Also Stuart Ritchie's Science Fictions, about fraud, deceit, bias and hype in research, which is both terrifying and thrilling. And Jeremiah in the Dark Woods by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, which I'm reading to my six-year-old daughter, in which our hero is after the three bears, some card-playing gorillas, a dinosaur and Goldilocks in pursuit of his badass Grandma's stolen tarts.

Favorite book when you were a child:

See previous answer. But also, I adored nonfiction books about the supernatural, haunted houses and vampires. In many ways, they were more of an inspiration to become a scientist than books about science. Stories of the unexplained that made me want to investigate them. That's all that science is.  

Your top five authors:

Paul Auster, Graham Greene, Daniel Clowes, whoever wrote the Icelandic Sagas and Charles Darwin, of whom I am incapable of tiring, even his definitive book on earthworms and vegetable mould.

Book you've faked reading:

The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms by Charles Darwin.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The book I have given to more people than any other is Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss. You think you've got it bad? Try poor Harry Haddow, who "try as he will, can't make a shadow."

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. I'd read any Murakami anyway, but this one has an actual stamped library card and pocket on the front.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Story of O by Pauline Réage. I was waaaaay too young.

Book that changed your life:

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I just didn't know you could play with ideas and words like that, and be hilarious and deeply moving at the same time. God, I wish he were still alive. What would he make of this mess we're in. So it goes.

Favorite line from a book:

"The world is a fine place, and worth the fighting for." For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway.

Five books you'll never part with:

The Death Ray by Daniel Clowes; Paradise Lost by Milton; Beloved by Toni Morrison; Leviathan by Paul Auster. But most of all, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. No single work has more profoundly altered our understanding of life, it contains the best idea anyone ever had, and that is the hill I'm willing to die on.

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

Perfume by Patrick Süskind. But a "scratch and sniff" edition.

Book Review

YA Review: Apple (Skin to the Core)

Apple (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth (Levine Querido, $18.99 hardcover, 352p., ages 12-up, 9781646140138, October 6, 2020)

"Apple" is a slur commonly used to denote an Indigenous person who is "red on the outside, white on the inside." Like the term "Uncle Tom" in Black populations, this insult suggests the person is "forever locked away from both worlds, separated by the thinnest membrane." In fact, Eric Gansworth tells readers in this compelling memoir, before "apple" came into use, people would often use "Uncle Tomahawk." But words are only as powerful as people allow them to be. Writing in a striking combination of verse and prose, Eric Gansworth (If I Ever Get Out of Here; Extra Indians) intends to take back the power of "apple."

Narrating his life experiences in hauntingly lyrical language, Gansworth reveals the heartbreaking struggle of a family--11 people living in a three-bedroom house--with too little to eat and a mostly absent father whose every attempt to get ahead is undermined by structural racism. Gansworth takes his readers through a tumultuous existence filled with government abuse and abject poverty, as well as wonder and discovery. He writes about the boarding school his grandparents attended, touted by white people as the "Opportunity of a Lifetime" for Indigenous children. In reality, they had to "check their identities and anything that made them Indians at the gate, like overcoats their host considered a hindrance." The effects of the boarding schools seep down into future generations, including Gansworth's, even though the progeny never experienced the horrors themselves. Efforts to rob "Indians" of their identity make their offspring even more determined to protect it, piecing together the fragments and finding missing segments. "A primary lesson we are taught, even in our greatest sadness: we must clear our eyes, our ears, our throats to do our parts in carrying on the stories for the time we will no longer be able to pass them on." With Apple, Gansworth is doing just that for the Onondaga Nation.

The exceptional elements of this memoir abound. Gansworth's own art adds dimension to an already vivid narrative. His black-and-white illustrations feature his family as well as significant apple imagery. He also includes personal photos--the few remaining after his family home was devastated by a fire. His use of the Beatles lyrics, song titles, jacket imagery and especially their Abbey Road album (from Apple Records), aids in developing both the format and pacing of his story. With dramatic textual imagery, nuanced storytelling and evocative illustrations, Apple is a stirring depiction of Indigenous life likely to evoke empathy from and resonate with all who venture into Gansworth's world. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Shelf Talker: An Onondaga writer and visual artist does his part to carry on the family stories through a brilliantly moving combination of verse, prose and illustration. 

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