Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, September 22, 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


New Voices, New Rooms: The Immigrant Experience

All three authors featured in last night's New Voices, New Rooms session "The Immigrant Experience" are children of immigrants who found themselves straddling the cultural traditions and values of their parents and the traditions they made for themselves in the United States.

"In Once I Was You, that was my thread," said Maria Hinojosa of her newly released memoir (Atria). "In some ways I was at war with my father. A traditional Mexican father wants you to get married--I was always fighting against that. For all immigrant women, this is our essential struggle. Or you can make peace with it. Then you realize this thing that we have is actually our superpower. It's given the writers here the capacity to do what we do."

Clockwise from top left: Bill Reilly (moderator), Gabriela Garcia, Ayad Akhtar, Maria Hinojosa.

Garcia, whose forthcoming debut novel, Of Women and Salt (Flatiron, April 6, 2021), draws on her experience growing up in Miami as the daughter of a Cuban mother and Mexican father, also had to make her way in the world. "I was born in the U.S., but Spanish was my first language, and I didn't learn English until elementary school. I was the translator for my parents," Garcia said. "I was interested in that space in particular--thinking I didn't belong here, feeling like an outsider in Mexico and Cuba, grappling with the privilege of that."

For Ayad Akhtar, too, that space, as Garcia put it, was "a source of constant conflict: me espousing values [my parents] didn't have." He described it as fodder for drama and storytelling. "Neither was particularly married to the Old World, but they never really left it emotionally or spiritually." He explained that he includes a lot of this in his new novel, Homeland Elegies (Little, Brown).

Moderator Bill Reilly, co-owner of the river's end bookstore in Oswego, N.Y., asked Hinojosa, "As a reporter, you've been covering this issue of immigration and the immigration crisis for some time, what keeps you going?" Hinojosa responded, "What keeps me going is my understanding that I'm part of a long arc of reporters in America whose job is to tell our truths. Frederick Douglass, he's my Founding Father. He's born into slavery, gets free, publishes and edits the first Black newspaper here, the North Star. Jovita Idár, a Mexican American like me, who stood up to the Texas Rangers. Ida B. Wells, an investigative reporter who reported on lynching."

Garcia took inspiration from Toni Morrison's quote: "If there's a book you want to read that's never been written, you should write it." Garcia saw the different experiences her parents had in America. "My mother was Cuban and had an easy path to citizenship. She was escaping Castro," the author said. "My father faced racism and xenophobia as a Mexican immigrant. I wanted to write a book about what a Latinx background means."

Reilly asked Garcia about the timeliness of her novel, "given that it describes immigration, detention and family separation." She responded with a knowing smile, "It's interesting to me because I started writing the chapter that takes place in detention centers during the Obama administration--that's when separation was first starting. The change is in how much media attention there is on ICE and on these places. It was based on my own work in detention centers and my conversations with women there."

Out of fear, post-9/11 America foreclosed Muslim lives for a generation, Reilly stated, asking Akhtar, "You reference an uncle who, after adopting Christianity and changing his name to Luke, felt safe. What needs to happen for Muslim Americans, American Muslims, to feel safe today?" Akhtar replied, "I have no idea. I do believe we're in a period where 9/11 is still an unprocessed wound. Our response to the trauma ended up destroying the world order. We're all suffering from the collapse of our nation. I was writing in response to that." Admitting that his book includes aspects of memoir, he gives his story the ending his father would have preferred, calling it "a fiction that expressed a deeper truth." --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: Sustained Support; Upward Trajectory

Source Booksellers on Noel Night 2019

Janet Webster Jones, owner of Source Booksellers in Detroit, Mich., reported that she's being "real, real cautious" about opening her store to browsing. The 900-square-foot store is predominantly doing web and phone orders, as well as front door pick-up, and Jones and her daughter Alyson Jones Turner are allowing customers to come in on a very limited basis. 

The front doors remain locked to walk-ins, Jones explained, but if a customer arrives for pick-up and expresses a desire to browse, they will let the shopper inside as long as they take safety precautions and there are no more than three customers in store at a time. She noted that given the size of the store, and that much of their space is still devoted to fulfilling web and phone orders, there is not a lot of room for social distancing.

Source Booksellers co-owner Janet Webster Jones (l.) and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Looking ahead to the holidays, Jones said they will probably end up having designated days for holiday browsing, with hours and capacity limited. The store plans to create holiday book bundles and will get the word out to customers early about holiday shopping. Jones pointed out that the store usually takes part in a big district event every holiday season called Noel Night, which is a big day for sales and allows them to pass out plenty of copies of the GLIBA holiday catalog. Without that and other physical events, Source is going to do a saturation mailing of the holiday catalog for the first time ever.

In late May and early June, after protests began around the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Source Booksellers began to appear on lists of Black-owned independent bookstores to support that were widely circulated on social media. The store saw an unprecedented surge in orders from people all over the U.S., and Jones said that support has largely continued, though it has transitioned to people wanting to buy antiracist titles for their book clubs or employers wanting to buy the same titles for all of their employees to read. At the same time, more publishers have been reaching out to the store to partner on virtual events.

Jones added that as soon as the pandemic began, the store had to become "really savvy" with technology. Prior to this spring, Source did not do e-commerce, but Turner quickly pivoted the store to online sales through Lightspeed POS. Virtual events also took some getting used to, and GLIBA helped with those as well.

"Business has changed and is still changing," said Jones. "I don't know how all of this is going to go. The new normal is whatever's happening that day."


In Bend, Ore., Roundabout Books has resumed most of its pre-Covid operations. Owner Cassie Clemans said the biggest differences are the store's shortened hours, limited capacity and the fact that they are not hosting any book clubs or author events in the evenings. The store has a cafe, and Clemans noted that seating has been reduced and cafe business is down as large groups can no longer meet there.

All staff and customers wear masks, and hand sanitizer and wipes are provided. Staff members wipe down all common surfaces throughout the day and in the cafe all food and drinks are served in to-go containers. The overall capacity is 12 people, which includes staff, and Clemans said they've only approached that number once, during Saturday Farmers Market hours. Customers were happy to wait a few minutes before entering, and she added that customers in general have been hugely supportive of the store's mask policies and safety measures.

While the store has not been in any immediate danger from the recent wildfires in Oregon, the air quality index in Bend last week was literally off the charts. The AQI tops out at 525, and the local air quality was estimated to be even worse than that. The terrible air quality kept most of the community inside their homes for more than a week. Clemans said the store closed early on the worst air quality days and kept only one person on shift for a couple hours each day for order pick-ups and any immediate needs. At first, Clemans continued, the store had some ventilation problems as their fresh air pull vent was open. But everything was fine after they got that closed.

Roundabout Books is now back to being fully staffed, and Clemans even hired some new booksellers recently for the upcoming holiday season. Throughout the pandemic, the store's sales have been on par or even exceeded 2019 sales, with Clemans and her team seeing a huge uptick in phone orders and use of the store's IndieCommerce site. 

On the subject of ordering for the holidays, Clemans said she ordered more full cases of major titles this year than she ever had before, and it was not solely because of shipping and reprinting worries. As mentioned above, the store's sales have been on an upward trajectory this year and Bend's population is growing quickly. She's also made a concentrated effort this year to increase the store's sidelines offerings. "My instincts tell me the season will be good for our store, as our community has been so supportive of us this year." --Alex Mutter

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

International Update: Waterstones Cuts Head Office Staff, NZ Book Trade Honors

U.K. bookstore chain Waterstones has made 16 head office roles redundant, including four publisher-facing staff on its books team. Citing a "challenging trading climate" as the primary reason for the move, the company said the cuts were a "necessary safeguarding measure" for the future.

A Waterstones spokesperson commented: "As part of the measures undertaken to safeguard the future of Waterstones during this challenging trading climate, we had to take the difficult decision to make a number of redundancies in the books team.... We have reviewed and streamlined the team structure to ensure close links across departments and to create efficient liaison with shop and stock teams. We are confident that this structure puts us in a good position to deliver the best possible Christmas for our customers in our shops and online."


New Zealand indie bookseller Wardini Books, with stores in Havelock North and Napier, was named Nielsen NZ Bookshop of the Year and Allen & Unwin won Nielsen NZ Publisher of the Year at the recent NZ Book Trade Industry Awards. Normally held during the annual booksellers conference, the event was moved online after Auckland's recent change to Covid Alert Level 3. A Zoom ceremony was hosted jointly by Booksellers NZ chair Juliet Blyth and PANZ president Julia Marshall.

Commending Wardini Books, judge Chris Szekely said, "As judges we saw abundant evidence of resilience, innovation, kotahitanga, manaakitanga, whanaungatanga. Reading the entries in this category was uplifting and pure pleasure. It was also challenging, because every finalist in this category was outstanding. In choosing a winner, we were drawn to an entry where there were indisputably-strong bonds between bookshop team members and their diverse customers, with numerous examples of going the extra mile, reaching out and caring for one another, caring for--and within--the community."

Other winners included Paul Stewart from Mākaro Press and the Cuba Press (young publisher of the year); Kit Lyall from Scorpio Books in Christchurch (young bookseller of the year), Hachette NZ (marketing and publicity strategy of the year for The Year of Mahy); and Hachette's Sharon Galey (salesperson of the year).

The NZ Book Industry Innovation Award for Verb Wellington "was accepted by festival director Claire Mabey from her home as she simultaneously prepared her toddler for bed and ran the online launch of this year's event," Booksellers NZ noted, adding: "The final award of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement Award to Tilly Lloyd from Unity Books Wellington, an achievement that merits a media release of its own." --Robert Gray

Fassler Joining Knopf Doubleday as Integrated Marketing Strategy Head

Kristin Fassler

Kristin Fassler is joining the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group in the newly created role of senior v-p, director of integrated marketing strategy, effective October 5. She has more than 25 years of publishing, sales and marketing experience, most recently at Atria, and before that at HarperCollins, Vintage and Random House.

In announcing the appointment, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group president and publisher Maya Mavjee said that Fassler will "build and lead a state-of-the-art marketing department centralized across all imprints that incorporates title marketing, social media marketing, advertising, promotion and creative services, online optimization, audience development, consumer insights and analytics, and campaign ROI....

"Kristin will develop cohesive and bespoke, large-scale, divisional and title-specific plans with the imprint teams, building the broadest possible audience for all of our authors and their work. Dynamic marketing strategies are essential in today's online landscape. Campaigns need to support clear goals and objectives. And the ways in which we reach readers must continue to evolve. By focusing our efforts on readers, by capturing insights about their paths to purchase, and by streamlining resources, we will be able to maximize opportunities for all of our titles, both front list and backlist."

In other changes at the group:

Chris Gillespie has been promoted to senior v-p, publishing director, Knopf, Pantheon and Schocken.

Beth Lamb has been promoted to senior v-p, deputy publisher of Vintage Anchor.

Angie Venezia has been promoted to director of publicity for Vintage Anchor.

Obituary Note: Winston Groom

Winston Groom

Winston Groom, "a Southern writer who found a measure of belated celebrity when his 1986 novel, Forrest Gump, was made into the 1994 Oscar-winning film starring Tom Hanks," died September 17, the New York Times reported. He was 77. Groom had published "three well-regarded novels and a nonfiction finalist for a Pulitzer Prize when he wrote the book that would define him as a writer and turn the Gumpian phrase 'life is like a box of chocolates' into a modern-day proverb." The film grossed more than $670 million globally at the box office, earned 13 Academy Award nominations and won six Oscars, including best picture.

"Forrest Gump is not the only reason to celebrate him as a great writer," said P.J. O'Rourke, the political satirist and journalist who knew Groom for decades. He called Groom's debut novel, Better Times Than These (1978), "the best novel written about the Vietnam War.... And this is not even to mention Winston's extraordinary historical and nonfiction works."

Groom wrote a sequel, Gump & Co. (1995), in the wake of the movie's success. His other books include Conversations with the Enemy (1983), a Pulitzer Prize finalist for general nonfiction; Shrouds of Glory (1995); and Patriotic Fire (2006). His most recent book, The Patriots: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the Making of America, will be released in November by National Geographic.

Don Noble, a University of Alabama professor emeritus of English and 40-year friend of Groom's, noted that the novel Forrest Gump is considerably different from the film: "You can make a lot of money as a comic writer, but you can't get no respect. But Forrest Gump is really actually quite a fine novel. It's more subtle and more complicated... richer than the movie.... One of the ways that you mark the kind of immortality, or possibility of immortality of a writer, is how many characters they put into the popular culture. Most writers never put a character into the popular imagination... but Winston did. Gump entered the language."

Alabama Poet Laureate Jennifer Horne recalled that, as an editor at the University of Alabama Press in the early part of the century, she had worked with Groom on the UA football book The Crimson Tide: An Illustrated History of Football at the University of Alabama. "At the time, I was in awe. He was a big deal, a famous author and all that.... He hit every deadline. He cared about his writing, but he didn't fight with us, as editors. He was just gracious, a gentleman. He did not pull rank.... In your home state you don't necessarily get the credit you deserve. He just kept growing as a writer. You can rest on your laurels, but he didn't do that."


Bookstore Tributes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, N.Y., shared this photo of its chalkboard honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "Rest in Power, RBG."

In New York City, McNally Jackson's display at the Prince Street store included this quotation from Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true."

Sign of the Times: 'Attending' a Conference

As SIBA/NAIBA's New Voices New Rooms online fall conference got underway yesterday, Inkwood Books, Haddonfield, N.J., shared a photo on Facebook of the timely sign posted on the shop's front door, noting: "Now more than ever we need to learn from our peers and industry so we can continue to operate during these rough times. Julie is physically here but trying to virtually attend our regional trade show. If you have an order to pickup, just knock and we'll handle it curbside. Otherwise we'll be open the rest of the week (likely with a bit of conference streaming in the background). Thank you for your understanding. New ideas coming soon!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dan Alexander on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Dan Alexander, author of White House Inc.: How Donald Trump Turned the Presidency into a Business (Portfolio, $28, 9780593188521).

Good Morning America: Nancy Grace, author of Don't Be a Victim: Fighting Back Against America's Crime Wave (Grand Central, $28, 9781538732298).

The View: Desus & Mero, authors of God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx (Random House, $26, 9780525512332).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Sunny Hostin, co-author of I Am These Truths: A Memoir of Identity, Justice, and Living Between Worlds (HarperOne, $27.99, 9780062950826).

TV: Big Sky

ABC released a teaser trailer for Big Sky, based on The Highway, the first book in C.J. Box's Cassie Dewell novel series. In the straight-to-series drama, written and executive produced by David E. Kelley, "private detective Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) partners with ex-cop Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick) on a search for two sisters (played by Natalie Alyn Lind and Jade Pettyjohn) who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana. When they discover that these are not the only girls who have disappeared in the area, they must race against the clock to stop the killer before another woman is taken," Deadline reported.

Big Sky began filming in late August in Vancouver with Covid-19 protocols amid the pandemic. The cast also includes Ryan Phillippe, Brian Geraghty, Dedee Pfeiffer, Jesse James Keitel and John Carroll Lynch.

Books & Authors

Awards: Rona Jaffe Winners

Clockwise from top left: Hannah Bae, Mari Christmas, Yalitza Ferreras, Charleen McClure, Elisa Gonzalez, Temim Fruchter

Winners have been named for the 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Awards, given annually "to identify and support women writers of unusual talent and promise in the early stages of their writing careers." Due to ongoing coronavirus concerns, the foundation's annual September awards celebration in New York City was cancelled. On September 17, the winners, each of whom receives $30,000, participated in a virtual reading in New York University’s Creative Writing Program Reading Series.

This year's winners are Hannah Bae (nonfiction), Mari Christmas (fiction), Yalitza Ferreras (fiction), Temim Fruchter (fiction), Elisa Gonzalez (poetry) and Charleen McClure (poetry).

"Our 2020 award winners are reframing and revisioning our world and bringing it into focus in important and inventive ways," said Beth McCabe, the foundation's executive director. "Their work is surprising, inspiring, challenging, and deeply personal. Using startling imagery and inventive storytelling they are exploring and interrogating the essential issues of our troubling times: racism, poverty, mental illness, trauma, social justice and equity. They are our witnesses in these times of reckoning and represent the power and fortitude of the creative spirit and once emboldened its ability to name realities and push toward transformation. The foundation is honored to support these original literary voices. They remind us that Rona Jaffe’s vision remains vital and necessary as her generous legacy continues to support and inspire women writers in their creative endeavors."

Book Review

Review: She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs

She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh (Scribner, $22 hardcover, 208p., 9781982157289, October 13, 2020)

Dolly Parton is an indisputable American cultural icon: instantly recognizable, much derided and (perhaps paradoxically) deeply respected. But there's more to Parton--both the musician and the woman--than rhinestones, outsize boobs and Southern twang. In her second nonfiction book, She Come by It Natural, journalist and lifelong Parton fan Sarah Smarsh (Heartland) delves into Parton's roots, her long career, her business empire and the smart but subtle feminism that has won Parton such legions of fans.

Originally published in roots-music magazine No Depression as a four-part serial, Smarsh's exploration traces the arc of Parton's career from the cheerful "girl singer" performing alongside Porter Wagoner to a big-time headliner in charge of her own contracts, copyrights and destiny. Smarsh, a native of rural Kansas, shares her early memories of listening to Parton's music (and that of similar strong women) in the car with her mother and grandmother, the music resonating across all three generations. She discusses how Parton's music has always championed the working-class woman whose struggles are largely invisible: the diner waitress or cleaning lady with a few children to feed or a man who won't pull his weight (or who pushes her around). Parton, like the women who feature in her music, isn't afraid to leave when things aren't working out. Her songs have become anthems for listeners who never studied feminist theory but who will stand up to any force, male or economic, that threatens their livelihood and their self-respect.

The second half of She Come by It Natural branches out from Parton's music career into her star turns in films such as 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias, and her sustained economic support of her home region of East Tennessee through both business and philanthropic efforts. Smarsh probes (though not too deeply) into the problematic aspects of a few shows at Dollywood, and tries to unravel the connection between Parton's business smarts, her acceptance (and proud display) of her own sexuality and the feminism she has been reluctant to (publicly) embrace. The emphasis is heavy on Parton's status as an example and icon to thousands of women, including Smarsh's own Grandma Betty, whom Smarsh finally took to a Parton concert in 2016.

Along the way, Smarsh examines the criticism--both class- and gender-based--that Parton has received over her half-century in music. While it includes sharp social commentary and well-placed personal anecdotes, She Come by It Natural is at its heart a love letter both to Parton and to the women who continue to see themselves in her songs. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Journalist Sarah Smarsh intimately examines the long career and feminist impact of beloved musical icon Dolly Parton.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. The Harbinger II: The Return by Jonathan Cahn
2. Say It Ain't So (SWAT Generation 2.0 Book 9) by Lani Lynn Vale
3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
4. Liberal Privilege by Donald Trump Jr.
5. Tempted by Love by Melissa Foster
6. Squircle by Francis P. Cholle
7. The Restaurant by Pamela M. Kelley
8. The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn
9. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
10. A Family to Keep by Susan Gable

[Many thanks to!]

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