Also published on this date: Wednesday, September 16, 2020: Maximum Shelf: Outlawed

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, September 16, 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


Regional Keynote: Reverend Al Sharpton

Reverend Al Sharpton during yesterday's keynote. (via)

"Bookstores and booksellers stabilize us," said Reverend Al Sharpton during a digital keynote discussion held over Zoom on Tuesday afternoon, "because we can anchor down into some literature that can give us a sense of where we are."

Sharpton was in conversation with Ramunda Young, co-owner of MahoganyBooks in Washington, D.C., as part of the fall regional association conferences. During the keynote session, Sharpton discussed his new book, Rise Up: Confronting a Country at the Crossroads (Hanover Square, Sept. 29), his personal history with Donald Trump, the books that have had a major impact on his life and more.

When asked what keeps him motivated and still going after fighting for civil rights and social justice for more than four decades, Sharpton noted that after the election of Barack Obama, he considered stepping down from the National Action Network once Obama left office and finally trying to build a civil rights museum in New York. But then Donald Trump was elected, and Sharpton recalled saying: "Wait a minute, I better rethink that... a lot of what we fought for is at stake."

Ramunda Young, MahoganyBooks

On the subject of his own history with Donald Trump, Sharpton said he first met Trump at a boxing match; they were introduced by Don King. They actually got "somewhat friendly," until "Central Park happened." After Trump placed ads in New York daily newspapers calling for the conviction and execution of the Central Park Five, Sharpton led protests against him.

Over a period of years, Sharpton continued, Trump tried to "make up with the liberal or left side," and even came to the National Action Network's conference twice. That relationship fell apart again once Trump became the face of the "birther movement" and Sharpton began taking him to task on the issue on his television and radio shows. And about a month after his election, Trump invited Sharpton to Mar-a-Lago, which he flatly refused.

Given the unrest throughout the country and that so much is at stake in the upcoming election, Sharpton said booksellers are in a "unique position" when it comes to making change. He implored booksellers to not be neutral and to "rise up and stand for something," adding that they are here to "give people the opportunity to study something." For that matter, he went on, everyone can be involved, no matter the scale. Even making sure one's close friends and family members are registered to vote can make a difference.

The discussion turned to books that have had major impacts on his life, and Sharpton brought up Moral Man and Immoral Society by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, which showed him that "good people can be a part of immortal institutions." Paul Tillich's Love, Power, and Justice was another book that guided him, as did the work of Black theologian Howard Thurman. He described himself as a voracious reader and said he's currently reading Bob Woodward's Rage as well as some theology. Asked to name a single book that everyone should read, Sharpton offered Why We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King Jr.

On the subject of his favorite bookstore, Sharpton said his "last favorite bookstore" was Liberation Bookstore in Harlem, which closed after the death of owner Una Mulzac in 2012. He added that when he had time to kill while traveling before the pandemic he would always try to visit local bookstores.

Asked about his future plans, Sharpton said he's going to continue doing what he's doing for at least another two to three years, and he does finally want to build a civil rights museum. And while he doesn't know who's going to win the election, he's "going to be out there holding them accountable." --Alex Mutter

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

DOJ Targets Bolton Book

The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether John R. Bolton, President Trump's former national security adviser, unlawfully disclosed classified information in his memoir The Room Where It Happened, published earlier this summer. The New York Times reported that the DOJ has convened a grand jury, which issued a subpoena for communications records from Bolton's publisher, Simon & Schuster, and described the investigation as "a significant escalation in the fraught publication of the book."

The Trump administration had previously sought to stop the book's publication, and last month John Demers, head of the department's national security division, opened the criminal investigation. Bolton has denied he published classified information.

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said: "The administration’s heavy-handed and politically-motivated reaction to the publication of John Bolton’s book forms part of a pattern of White House efforts to punish vocal critics. In that context, the opening of a criminal inquiry into Bolton’s conduct comes across as intended less to protect national security than to punish perceived disloyalty and deter unflattering disclosures. This administration has repeatedly manipulated the process of pre-publication review to suit political aims, jeopardizing the credibility of what should be a legitimate safeguard against unauthorized and potentially harmful disclosures."

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

Fire Destroys NovelTea Bookstore Cafe in Truro, N.S.

The building where Canadian bookseller NovelTea Bookstore Cafe is located in downtown Truro, N.S., was one of several businesses destroyed by fire Sunday night, CBC News reported.

The bookshop posted photos of the fire on its website, noting that "NovelTea is so much more than bricks and mortar, NovelTea lives in our hearts! NovelTea is about community connection and support. We are currently working on finding a new space where we can gather again and experience all that the heart of downtown Truro represents!"

A GoFundMe campaign with a C$15,000 (about US$11,370) goal has been launched by Mariah Hazzard, who wrote that the shop is "owned by my in-laws, Keith and Vonda Hazzard. NovelTea has been a staple in the downtown Truro experience! 2020 has been hard enough on local small businesses, this has made an already brutal year even harder. I want to raise money to provide some financial relief for them as they figure out all of this and hope to find a space to continue to serve all their wonderful costumers the coffee and treats they've come to love!" 

NovelTea posted on Facebook yesterday: "Thank you so much for all the love and support today! We've been completely overwhelmed with all your encouraging messages. People stopped us on the street to encourage us, pulled over their cars, offered us free meals, so many texts and messages, we have definitely felt your support! Our daughter-in-law started up a GoFundMe page. We will be using all the funds to help us find a new place to set up and get NovelTea up and running as quickly as possible. You guys are amazing!"

HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster Appoint DEI Executives

Two more major publishers have appointed senior executives to new positions fostering diversity, equity and inclusion:

Gisselda Nuñez

Gisselda Nuñez is joining HarperCollins in the newly created role of v-p, diversity, equity, and inclusion, effective September 21. Among other things, she will lead and advise the company on DE&I initiatives, creating a strategy and vision for the company, partner with the recruitment team on strategies and best practices, lead the company's DE&I learning and development program, oversee the New York D&I committee, work with executives and others throughout the business to drive decision making and engagement, and act as an advocate of change management in the areas of DE&I. She will also sit on HarperCollins's U.S. Trade Executive Committee.

Nuñez was executive director, head of diversity strategy, at Morgan Stanley. Earlier she held a variety of controller, regulatory reporting, and accounting disclosure positions.


Amanda Armstrong-Frank

Amanda Armstrong-Frank is being promoted to the newly created role of director of workplace culture and diversity initiatives at Simon & Schuster. She will report to S&S president and CEO Jonathan Karp and to the ViacomCBS Office of Global Inclusion.

Armstrong-Frank will, Karp said in an announcement, offer "a wealth of perspective and expertise to combine with her own deep understanding of Simon & Schuster's employees, our culture, and challenges particular to the publishing industry. Amanda will be an agent for change who will advise, advocate, and act to improve workplace culture, including diverse representation at all levels. She will partner with me in helping to facilitate conversations and access to senior management, building targeted development programming and expanding management participation in our extensive recruitment outreach to pools of BIPOC talent. Amanda will also work with Human Resources to bring much-anticipated diversity and inclusion training to all Simon & Schuster employees annually, and as part of new-hire onboarding to support a culture of awareness, inclusion, and psychological safety from day one. And of course, Amanda will ensure that our very active Diversity Council continues to play an important role in the life of the company by encouraging the engagement of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other employees from diverse backgrounds, and by drawing the attention of senior management to critical issues of concern."

Armstrong-Frank joined S&S in the trade sales group and was most recently manager of business operations in charge customer programs and co-op advertising. Since 2005, she has been chair of the Diversity Council. Karp added: "She has long been a reliable sounding board, and in recent months has generously shared her insights and wise counsel, helping us gain valuable perspective and envision a better way forward for Simon & Schuster, with a workplace culture befitting our place as an industry leader."

How Bookstores Are Coping: 'No-Win' Situation; Mask Backlash

In Mendocino, Calif., Gallery Bookshop has settled into a new normal of being "more-or-less reopened," said owner Christie Olson Day. There are strict limits on how many people can be in the store at once (six in total, based on the store's 2,700 square feet of selling space), and Day and her team set up an entry foyer where customers can step inside, ask questions, look at a few bestseller displays and wait their turn to enter if necessary. There is also a staff workstation in the foyer, so there's always a bookseller on hand who keeps track of capacity while working on web orders.

Welcoming customers to the store's foyer

Day said her store has been "obliquely affected" by the wildfires currently raging on the West Coast, with lots of evacuees coming to Mendocino and poor air quality. Usually she keeps all the doors open to help with ventilation, but there have been several days recently where they had to have the doors closed to keep the smoke out. On those days, Day added, they reduced their customer capacity even further and kept only the front doors open.

On the subject of ordering for the fall and holiday season, Day called it a "no-win" situation, with no single correct strategy. There's no way to know what to expect from the world outside the bookstore, so it doesn't make sense to order aggressively. At the same time, it seems clear that the supply chain is going to be stressed. She is ordering frontlist very conservatively but "going a little stronger" on her regular backlist orders. She's also gotten a head start on letting customers know what to expect.

Earlier in the summer, after protests began around the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Day and her team used the cardboard inserts from their Ingram boxes to make Black Lives Matter signs and attended the first local march as a team. Afterward, they put those signs in the store's windows, where they remain.

"As a store, we've always been pretty forward about our politics, so it's interesting to me that this particular message has gotten more pushback than anything else we've done," said Day, noting that the store has regularly hosted progressive political action meetings and fundraisers. "To me, that reinforces the need to be vocal about it."


Melissa DeMotte, owner of The Well-Read Moose in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, reported that her store was closed for a total of five weeks and reopened on May 1 with a limit of 10 customers in store. DeMotte and her team separated the store's three checkout counters by setting up tables that were previously in the store's cafe. She noted that the cafe had closed prior to the pandemic, due to a flood on New Year's Eve. They also added an air purifier to their HVAC system, so staff would feel comfortable closing the doors due to weather.

Customers are required to wear masks, and DeMotte said that has drawn quite a bit of negative feedback both in person and on social media. Despite the existence of a health district mandate, there is a loud group in the community who refuse to wear masks. When those folks come to the store, DeMotte and her staff offer appointment shopping or curbside pick-up, but they don't want that.

"We have lost business from this and have no idea what the longer-term ramifications for the store will be," continued DeMotte. "Hopefully we've made other folks happy to shop in our store with our safety protocols."

The Well-Read Moose is still buying by season, but the store has reduced its frontlist orders by about 20%. Gift-buying decisions have been particularly challenging, and DeMotte noted that the store is trying a few new lines as well as increasing the puzzles and games selection. They've added a gift store section to their website, and while it hasn't gotten much traction yet, DeMotte hopes to drive holiday shopping traffic there.

Overall, this summer was less busy than last year. There were a lot of tourists, but few locals brought their families to the shop. And while book sales were down a little bit, gift and greeting card sales were down significantly.

Throughout the summer, DeMotte and her team have made an effort to display more books by and about BIPOC, and they plan to extensively feature more of these titles in the holiday catalog. DeMotte added that her customers have shown a lot of interest in these titles so far. She also noted that there are many "local militia folks" in the community who have come out during protests allegedly to "protect" downtown. So far, at least, DeMotte has not had any trouble from them. --Alex Mutter


Cool Idea: Teaming Up for Book Donations

Cincy Book Bus stopped by Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore, Cincinnati, Ohio yesterday and posted on Instagram: "Picking up books today for some upcoming school donations! Why do I buy from Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Bookstore when I can purchase the books myself? 1) I like to support local businesses 2) For every book I buy, they donate a book. Its a win-win! Together we are getting books into the hands of kids who need them most!"

Personnel Changes at Seven Stories Press

Claire Kelley has joined Seven Stories Press as director of library and academic marketing and will do editorial work for the children's imprint Triangle Square. She formerly was director of marketing & publicity for Roost Books at Shambhala Publications. Earlier she worked in marketing at Melville House, Simon & Schuster, and the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. She has also done volunteer work at two bookstores: Shakespeare & Company in Paris and Atlantis Books on the island of Santorini.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Stacey Abrams on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Watch What Happens Live: Jane Fonda, author of What Can I Do?: My Path from Climate Despair to Action (Penguin Press, $30, 9780593296226).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Stacey Abrams, author of Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America (Holt, $27.99, 9781250257703).

Movies: Fair Warning

Michael Connelly will write the screenplay for a film adaptation of his recent bestselling novel Fair Warning, "which is being seen as a potential franchise," Deadline reported. Connelly is producing alongside Denis O'Sullivan and Jeff Kalligheri of Compelling Pictures, as well as two-time Emmy nominee Jeffrey Pollack (Laurel Canyon). Best known for his Harry Bosch novel series, Connelly has sold more than 74 million books worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages.

Fair Warning is the third in a newer series (The Poet, The Scarecrow) featuring investigative journalist Jack McEvoy, "who has often been cited as the character most closely resembling the author in real life, with Connelly himself having been a crime reporter for years," Deadline wrote.

"I'm very excited to be joining Denis and the two Jeffs on this project," said Connelly. "From day one we have all been on the same creative page and think there is a movie here that will be a great thrill ride; at the same time it takes a hard look at questions about genetic culture and privacy."

In a statement, O'Sullivan and Kalligheri said Connelly "is at the forefront of his many fields, and we could not be more excited to work with him as the author and screenwriter on this film. When we first started talking about this incredible book with Michael, and found that we had the same touchstones in movies like Chinatown, Zodiac and Seven, it became evident that we'd be incredibly fortunate to go on this journey together, hopefully the first of several. Huge thanks to Jeff Pollack for bringing us all to the table and making this unnerving flick with us."

Books & Authors

Awards: Booker Shortlist

The six-title shortlist has been released for the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction. Shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 (about $3,210) and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner, who gets a further £50,000 (about $64,250), will be announced on November 17 in an event broadcast from London's Roundhouse in collaboration with BBC Arts. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ceremony has been re-imagined as a globally accessible, multi-platform offering that "aims to creatively engage readers across the world with the shortlisted books, authors and the overall winner." This year's shortlisted titles are:

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (U.S.)
This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (U.S.)
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/U.S.)
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Scotland/U.S.)
Real Life by Brandon Taylor (U.S.)      

Reading with... Kelly Jensen

Kelly Jensen is the editor of three anthologies for young adults. She's worked as a teen and adult librarian, teaches yoga in her free time and her reading life is one she relishes. The most recent anthology she's edited is Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy (Algonquin Young Readers, August 18).

On your nightstand now:

Aimee Bender's latest novel--her first in 10 years!--The Butterfly Lampshade. I love her dreamy, magical stories, as well as her lush and vivid writing.

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. Mikki is someone I so deeply respect and her writing on feminism is vital.

Jean Kyoung Frazier's debut, Pizza Girl, about a pregnant 18-year-old pizza delivery driver who becomes obsessed with one of her customers. Funny, wry and all of the things I just love in a book.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin! I was a voracious reader as a child and, honestly, I can remember the titles I didn't like more than those I'd call favorites because I liked so many. But the Baby-Sitters were like the sisters I never had, and they've never left me.

Your top five authors:

Brutal question! The five authors I consider automatic buys are Nina LaCour for her quiet, literary style; Ann Patchett, whose The Magician's Assistant is my all-time favorite and one of the only books I've ever reread; Samantha Mabry, whose magical realism is lyrical and rocks my world; Brandy Colbert, who writes some of the most complex and authentic realistic YA books; and though she's only published one book, Jia Tolentino is on this list, too, as her essays are mind-boggling good, challenging and insightful.

Book you've faked reading:

My college adviser was a Virginia Woolf scholar and, though I took many classes with her and was assigned many books by Woolf, I never cracked the cover on one of them. Sorry, Leslie.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby. This historical novel is a ghost story, as well as a powerful look at the realities of Sicilian immigration in Chicago. I'm Sicilian and my family immigrated to Chicago, and this story was my family's story, as much as it was something wholly unique and enveloping.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Everywhere Antennas by Julie Delporte and translated by Helge Dascher. It's a graphic novel in a beautiful and minimal palette, and the cover hints at the gorgeous art within the book.

Book you hid from your parents:

My mom gave me all of the "bad" and "dirty" books! She introduced me to Go Ask Alice and gave me Flowers in the Attic sometime in middle school. In turn, I handed her the bloody Stephen King books I thought she'd like as much as I did (she did not).

Book that changed your life:

The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species by Scott Weidensaul. I read this in college, at a time when I thought I had no real understanding of science or science writing. This book turned me into someone who loves nature and the mysteries of the world around us, but also someone who can read and love narrative science writing.

Favorite line from a book:

"My mind then wandered. I thought of this: I thought of how every day each of us experiences a few little moments that have just a bit more resonance than other moments--we hear a word that sticks in our mind--or maybe we have a small experience that pulls us out of ourselves, if only briefly--we share a hotel elevator with a bride in her veils, say, or a stranger gives us a piece of bread to feed to the mallard ducks in the lagoon; a small child starts a conversation with us in a Dairy Queen--or we have an episode like the one I had with the M&M cars back at the Husky station.

"And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection--certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether, one we didn't even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real--this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives." -- from Life After God by Douglas Coupland

Five books you'll never part with:

One of my favorite things about being a librarian was weeding books. If it wasn't moving and wasn't of special significance, it was weeded so new books could fill those spaces. So, honestly, I have no real attachment to any of my books. But if I had to pick, I'd pick only one: The Magician's Assistant.

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

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I adored this when I read it on audio, as Kimmerer performs it. But as much as I took away from it, I think I'd take even more away now a few years later, when the landscape of my own life looks so much different than it did when I met the book. The beauty of nonfiction, though, is that returning to it again and again means bringing to the text more lived experience.

What author would you like to see a new book from?

After revisiting Rachel Klein's bizarre and entrancing The Moth Diaries, I want to know where the next Klein book is. That came out almost 20 years ago, and I suspect readers who visit it now would see it as so far ahead of its time. But whatever happened to her? Is she still writing? I want more!

Book Review

Children's Review: The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel by Sheela Chari (Candlewick/Walker Books US, $17.99 hardcover, 304p., ages 8-12, 9781536209563, October 6, 2020)

Based on the Peabody Award-winning middle-grade podcast series of the same name, The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel uses a dynamic multi-platform approach to tell the story of a too-smart-for-his-own-good 11-year-old who suspects a nefarious connection between missing kids and a charismatic billionaire inventor named Oliver Pruitt.

In the opinion of South Asian American Mars Patel, Oliver Pruitt is one of the only grownups who "gets" kids. The podcaster at times even seems to speak directly to Mars: "Hey there! Yeah, you! Are you searching for adventure?... Something BIG is happening soon." It's not long before sixth graders from H.G. Wells Middle School begin to disappear. Though the adults in Mars's life are strangely unconcerned, he is unwilling simply to let it go. As one, then two, then three of Mars's group of friends vanish, it becomes clear that the remaining three pals are on their own. Is this the BIG adventure Pruitt was talking about? To find their friends and figure out what's happening, the tweens will need to access their best qualities and most powerful skills.

As in any good mystery, nothing is what it seems in Mars's world. Is Oliver Pruitt a cool and benevolent genius or a diabolical kidnapper? Are Mars and his friends "smart kids" who "haven't figured out how to stay out of trouble," as one teacher says, or "misfit" pranksters, as their classmates and the school administration believe? And what exactly does Mars's mom do for her second job that requires her to wear a black turtleneck and leggings?

Readers of this fast-paced mystery do not need to have listened to the serial podcast to become utterly absorbed in the action on the pages. Throughout the book, Sheela Chari (Finding Mighty) includes text messages, images and podcast "screenshots" with listener comments. Alternating points of view give a glimpse into each child's struggles and dreams. Identity, for example, is a source of both pride and frustration for each of the friends. JP identifies as neither a she nor a he, preferring "they." Many of their middle school peers find this gender identity ripe for harassment. Randall, aka Toothpick, is super-intelligent but doesn't always realize his friends like him for more than his brains. And Mars defends his buddies creatively and to a fault, leading him to trouble more often than not.

This terrific start to a book series contains intriguing characters, conspiracy theories, customized drones, holograms and a tantalizing mystery that could be leading readers anywhere in this world... or beyond. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: Based on a popular podcast, this lively sci-fi adventure follows Mars Patel and his friends as they try to discover if a famous billionaire inventor is behind some mysterious disappearances.

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