Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 8, 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


Louise Glück Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Louise Glück
(photo: Katherine Wolkoff)

Louise Glück has won the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature, cited by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm "for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal."

Glück, who was the U.S. poet laureate 2003-2004, is the author of more than a dozen books of poems and a collection of essays. She won the National Book Award for Virtuous Night (2014), the Pulitzer Prize for The Wild Iris (1992), the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Triumph of Achilles (1985) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poems: 1962-2012. She has also won the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets and is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal. Her most recent book is American Originality: Essays on Poetry (2017), published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Glück is an adjunct professor of English and Rosenkranz Writer-in-Residence at Yale University and lives in Cambridge, Mass.


In other Nobel news, Jennifer Doudna, co-winner yesterday of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for the development of a method for genome editing," is co-author of A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution, now available in paperback from Mariner Books.

Doudna is an American biochemist who is a Li Ka Shing Chancellor Chair Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley.

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

Chicago's City Lit Books Closing Permanently

City Lit Books, in the Logan Square area of Chicago, Ill., is closing permanently on December 1. The store will end curbside pickup orders on October 15, but online orders can be placed through the end of November.

In an announcing the closing, owner Teresa Kirschbraun said that because of the pandemic, "we have been reduced to an order fulfillment business with precious little customer interaction. In spite of incredible community support, revenues have fallen dramatically. Supporting an order fulfillment center is simply not sustainable, financially or emotionally."

She added that it will like "be at least another nine months before we could get back to anything resembling business as usual, and I am unable to sustain the financial losses for that long."

She decided to close December 1, she continued, because of concern "about our ability to meet customer expectations during the holiday season this year due to staffing shortages, probable shipping delays, and possible book shortages from the publishers."

Kirschbraun recalled that "over eight years ago, the vision for City Lit Books was to provide a platform for facilitating conversations, supporting creativity, and collaborating to contribute to our community all within a setting of amazing books. To that end, we have hosted hundreds of author events, book clubs, Open Mics, and legendary Story Times. We have supported authors so local they walked to their book release events. We loved providing a space to host fundraisers and book drives for schools.

"We have collaborated in dozens of off-site events all over the city in schools, churches, bars, temples, farmers markets, and libraries. We have donated hundreds of books to schools, shelters, and community organizations.

"We've even had some celebrity: hosted rock stars, been featured on an episode of Easy on Netflix and were included in United Airlines Hemisphere's article, 'Three Perfect Days in Chicago.'

"Most importantly, we have introduced thousands of books to our community that helped readers learn, laugh, cry, get inspired, be better citizens, plant more gardens, and, in general, experience joy."

She added that City Lit "exceeded all my expectations."

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

Word on the Street Opens in Marlborough, Mass.

Word on the Street has opened at 109 Main St., Marlborough, Mass. The Milford Daily News reported that for former Marlborough librarian Alyson Cox, "opening an independent children's bookstore has long been a dream." Her first job after college was at an indie, "where her passion to one day open her own shop continued to grow."

"I started telling my parents someday I'll have my own bookstore," she said, adding that Word on the Street was "the culmination of a lifelong dream."

Noting that the city and region has long needed an independent book and gift shop where kids can explore and build a love of reading, she said: "I always wished there was a book and toy store I could bring [my children] to when they were small."

Customers have been coming in since the doors opened, and they are excited to have an independent bookstore downtown, especially with so many recreation options shut down because of the Covid-19, she said. "They're looking for that activity. For us, it seems like we're in a good place.... It just might be the little spark that makes them lifelong readers."

Bookselling Without Borders Relaunches as Nonprofit with New Name

Bookselling Without Borders, founded in 2016 to connect U.S. booksellers with the international book industry, is relaunching as a nonprofit and is taking a new name, Books Across Borders.

In normal times, the program focuses on offering fellowships for U.S. booksellers to attend international book fairs and includes participation in panels and seminars, bookstore visits, meetings with people from across the industry, and more. For the coming year, Books Across Borders will offer virtual itineraries to international book fairs for booksellers and an array of additional international bookseller networking opportunities. These fellowships are part of building a transnational network of literary connections. It will also work to support works in translation and #ownvoices titles with book reviews, a directory of key international book industry contacts, and other activities. Those interested in the Books Across Borders mission are encouraged to attend its virtual Frankfurt Book Fair panel and summit next week.

Independent booksellers from across the country will be welcomed to apply for the book fair fellowships in January 2021.

To support its mission to make more international and diverse voices available to readers in the U.S. and throughout the world, please visit the Fundly campaign. For further information, contact Anna Thorn, program coordinator for Books Across Borders, via e-mail.

Books Across Borders is grateful for the support of its publisher and industry partners, which include Akashic, Catapult, Counterpoint, Europa Editions, Milkweed Editions, Other Press, Princeton University Press, Restless Books, Rutgers University Press, Seagull Books, Seven Stories Press, Soft Skull, Shambhala Publications, the University of Chicago Press, Aufbau DuMont, Edizioni E/O, Hanser, C.H. Beck, Hoffmann & Campe, Klett-Cotta, Suhrkamp, Frankfurter Buchmesse, Salone del Libro, Torino, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Shanghai Children's Book Fair, Bogotá International Book Fair, Ingram Content Group and Shelf Awareness.

House Report Calls Amazon and Other Tech Companies Anti-Competitive

Issued this week, a House antitrust investigation of the four biggest tech companies--Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook--concludes that the companies "broke the law to squash competition," as the New York Times On Tech newsletter put it. The report made a variety of recommendations, including breaking up the companies and calling for greater oversight by and funding for anticompetition federal agencies, particularly the Federal Trade Commission.

Based on a 16-month investigation, the nearly 450-page report was signed only by Democrats. While Republicans and Democrats apparently agreed on the problems, they disagreed on solutions.

Concerning Amazon and the areas of most interest to the book world, the report found that "elements" of the company are monopolies and anti-competitive, particularly its Marketplace. As the Times put it, "The company uses its market power as both the largest online retailer and the leading e-commerce marketplace to its advantage and to hobble potential competitors. Amazon sets the rules for digital commerce. About 2.3 million third-party sellers do business on the Amazon marketplace worldwide, the report said, and 37% of them rely on Amazon as their sole source of income--essentially making them hostage to Amazon's shifting tactics."

In addition, "Amazon harvests the sales and product data from its marketplace to spot hot-selling items, copy them and offer its own competing products, typically at lower prices. One former Amazon employee told the House investigators, 'Amazon is first and foremost a data company, they just happen to use it to sell stuff.' "

Proposed solutions include prohibiting Amazon from selling its own products on its Marketplace (which are often created based on information gained from a company that sells through Marketplace) and ending the requirement that disputes go to arbitration.

To see the full "Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets" report, click here.

Sienna Farris to Head Multicultural Marketing at Simon & Schuster

Sienna Farris
(photo: Marc Ohrem-Leclef)

Sienna Farris has been named v-p, director of multicultural marketing, at Simon & Schuster, a newly created position. She was formerly v-p, corporate digital marketing, and joined S&S in 2016 from the Estee Lauder Companies, where she was global executive director of corporate social marketing.

In announcing the promotion, Liz Perl, executive v-p and chief marketing officer, said, "As we work to acquire more books by BIPOC authors, we must at the same time develop the in-house proficiency and resources that will enable us to give these books every chance to succeed in the marketplace."

In her new position, Farris will "serve as a company-wide, senior marketing expert and champion for our multicultural publishing," Perl continued. "Her wide ranging responsibilities will include developing and sharing best practices for publishing multicultural works, strategizing marketing tactics and campaigns for individual titles and publishing programs with colleagues from across the company, developing targeted marketing and merchandising programs, establishing relationships with key media, influencers, booksellers and librarians, and serving as the liaison with internal and external partners to promote Simon & Schuster adult and children's diverse publishing."

Perl added that under Farris's direction "we have expanded our social media marketing capabilities across the company, invested in new digital marketing tools, technologies and training, and taken our game to new levels in areas including e-mail strategy, paid and earned media analytics and partnership marketing. She recently spearheaded our Books Like Us initiative, a video series in which authors share stories of the first time they discovered a character that resembles their own personal narrative. Sienna is a passionate advocate for the BIPOC voices in our publishing, and I am eager to see her in action as she devotes her talent and energies on a full-time basis to this important part of our publishing efforts."

California Children's Booksellers Alliance at CALIBA

During CALIBA's Discovery Lab conference, the entire day on Tuesday was dedicated to the California Children's Booksellers Alliance. The programming began with a conversation between editor David Levithan and Bill Konigsberg, author of The Bridge (Scholastic), followed by an Author Speed Date featuring 13 authors and illustrators, including Adam Rex (On Account of the Gum, Chronicle) and Tanita Davis (Serena Says, Harper). The morning finished with a Young Readers Editors Buzz with Whitney Leopard and Christopher Myers from Random House Children's Books and Cecily Kaiser, Penguin Young Readers editor and publishing director for RISE and Penguin Workshop.

After lunch, moderator Katerina Argyres of the Bookshop West Portal in San Francisco welcomed viewers to part one of the Mirrors and Windows panel, based on Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop's idea that child and teen readers need "mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors."

Tami Charles

Tami Charles and Bryan Collier spoke first about All Because You Matter (Orchard Books). Charles said that the book began with her son "seeing those headlines and wanting to keep [him] protected and shielded." The book truly came into being when her son asked her, "If Dr. King was such a good guy... why did people hurt him?" At that point, she knew "the questions were only going to get deeper." So she wrote All Because You Matter as a lullaby that would also answer her son's questions. "Thank you so much California booksellers," she finished, "for inviting us to this wonderful event so we can spread love and kindness, because that is what this book is truly about." Collier continued Charles's themes, calling the book "a love note to our children." This book, he said, is "needed" and "almost prophetic." But, seemingly most importantly to the illustrator, the book "can go full circle." This happens "when the kid reads the book back to an adult" because, Collier insisted, adults need to be reminded that we matter, too. He told booksellers directly that "when [children] walk through your door, this is the one that can go full circle."

Shannon Wright

Author Varian Johnson and illustrator Shannon Wright (Twins, Graphix/Scholastic) spoke next. Johnson, focusing on the theme of the panel, said, "While we don't want to discount those windows and sliding glass doors, we desperately need mirrors right now. We need books that affirm people of color... and all the wonderful ways they live their lives." Wright, who said she couldn't "even put into words how much [she] would have loved a book like this growing up," agreed: "Our hope is that this book will serve as a balm, a sense of joy, to any kid out there, especially Black kids."

Agnes Borinsky, a bookseller at Skylight Books, Los Angeles, shared her upcoming YA novel, Sasha Masha (FSG). "It's a book about queer ancestry and community," she said, expressing excitement that we are "coming into what seems to be a golden age of #ownvoices YA."

Christine Li

Debut middle-grade author Christina Li closed the panel, returning to the theme of windows and mirrors. It wasn't until she read the Newbery-honored Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin that she realized the books she'd been reading were populated almost entirely by white people: "I didn't realize I was looking through all of these windows until I looked into a mirror." With Clues to the Universe (Quill Tree Books), Li wants to do for other children what Where the Mountain Meets the Moon did for her: it allowed her to see herself as "someone worthy of writing these kinds of stories." "It's the most validating thing in the world," she said, "to walk into a bookstore and finally see yourself on the shelves."

CALIBA director of operations Ann Seaton moderated part two of the Mirrors and Windows panel. Angeline Boulley, an Ojibwe of the Bear Clan from Sugar Island, opened the conversation by introducing herself "in the traditional Anishinaabe way." Boulley said that she had been thinking about writing Firekeeper's Daughter (Holt BFYR) for more than a decade--"Eleven years ago, I decided to write the Indigenous Nancy Drew novel that I had wished to read as a teen." She discussed the strong autobiographical aspects of the novel, then finished: "Miigwetch [thank you] for this opportunity today."

Christina Hammonds Reed

Christina Hammonds Reed spoke about how the Rodney King riots, the activating event in her book The Black Kids (Simon & Schuster BFYR), are "part of a continuum." The 1992 Los Angeles riots, she said, were not the beginning of racial reckoning and were certainly not the end. Reed mentioned she never could have imagined her book would come out at "a time like this" but said she considers it a valuable addition to the conversation: "We have this year of really reckoning with race in ways we haven't previously.... The book I hope allows young people to reflect on the present."

Maggie Tokuda-Hall, author of The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea (Candlewick), gave an excellent and absorbing talk about her desire to "decolonize the fantasy space." She talked about her mother's mission regularly to pull any invasive plant she finds near her home in California and connected that to forest fires, ignored Indigenous practices, the mermaids in her book and the decolonizing of the fantasy space. Her book, she said, is "a middle finger to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which is "the perfect example of a European colonialist fantasy." Ending on an unrelated but still very exciting note, Tokuda-Hall mentioned, "I found out today that I won one of [CALIBA's] Golden Poppy Awards! Thank you!"

Tracy Deonn

Tracy Deonn finished the panel, calling her YA novel Legendborn (Margaret K. McElderry Books) "a story and project launched by loss." Using slides, she asked viewers, "What lives and losses get immortalized? And what lives and losses get lost to history? Who gets to be legendary?" As a fan of Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, Deonn wanted to take Arthurian legend and create a story she describes as "Southern Black Girl Magic inspired by Black cultural rootwork and history."

The two-part Mirrors and Windows panel was followed by four more virtual events focused on children's and YA books and booksellers featuring authors like Eric Gansworth, whose Apple: Skin to the Core was longlisted for the NBA; an introduction to Heartdrum, HarperCollins's new "Native-focused" imprint; poet and author Nikki Grimes speaking about Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomsbury Children's Books); and Susan Verde, who spoke about I Am One: A Book of Action (Abrams BFYR). It was an overall excellent day of children's and YA book programming. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Image of the Day: Wild Things in Wisconsin

The Village Booksmith in Baraboo, Wis., won the Best Book Character Award during the Baraboo Public Library's "Scarecrows on Parade" competition with its entry of the Wild Thing and Max. Pictured are artist extraordinaire Megan Watson, bookstore owner Rob Nelson and BPL Youth Services Program Coordinator Anne Horjus.

Personnel Changes at Sourcebooks

Bennet Johnson has joined Sourcebooks as marketing specialist.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ally Brooke on Good Morning America

Good Morning America: Ally Brooke, author of Finding Your Harmony: Dream Big, Have Faith, and Achieve More Than You Can Imagine (Dey Street, $24.99, 9780062895776).

Today Show: Danny Seo, author of Naturally, Delicious Desserts (Gibbs Smith, $28, 9781423655374).

Tonight Show: Lenny Kravitz, co-author of Let Love Rule (Holt, $29.99, 9781250113085).

This Weekend on Book TV: Jason Reynolds

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, October 10
1 p.m. Rebecca Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper, authors of An Open World: How America Can Win the Contest for Twenty-First-Century Order (Yale University Press, $26, 9780300250329). (Re-airs Monday at 2 a.m.)

2:50 p.m. Susan Berfield, author of The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781635572490).

3:25 p.m. Kerri Arsenault, author of Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250155931), at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y.

4:30 p.m. Thomas Levenson, author of Money for Nothing: The Scientists, Fraudsters, and Corrupt Politicians Who Reinvented Money, Panicked a Nation, and Made the World Rich (Random House, $30, 9780812998467), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. (Re-airs Monday at 7 a.m.)

6 p.m. Terry Virts, author of How to Astronaut: An Insider's Guide to Leaving Planet Earth (Workman, $27.95, 9781523509614), at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

7 p.m. Jason Reynolds, co-author of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (Little, Brown, $18.99, 9780316453691), at the National Book Festival.

7:25 p.m. Eric Jay Dolin, author of A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America's Hurricanes (Liveright, $29.95, 9781631495274), at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, La. (Re-airs Monday at 6 a.m.)

8:30 p.m. Maria Hinojosa, author of Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America (Atria, $28, 9781982128654).

10 p.m. John Brennan, author of Undaunted: My Fight Against America's Enemies, At Home and Abroad (Celadon, $30, 9781250241771). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Lynne Cheney, author of The Virginia Dynasty: Four Presidents and the Creation of the American Nation (Viking, $36, 9781101980040). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

Sunday, October 11
3 p.m. Zephyr Teachout, author of Break 'Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom from Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money (All Points Books, $28.99, 9781250200891).

6 p.m. Eddie R. Cole, author of The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom (Princeton University Press, $29.95, 9780691206745), at BookPeople in Austin, Tex.

7 p.m. Sen. Jon Tester, author of Grounded: A Senator's Lessons on Winning Back Rural America (Ecco, $29.99, 9780062977489).

10:45 p.m. Claudia Rankine, author of Just Us: An American Conversation (Graywolf Press, $30, 9781644450215).

Books & Authors

Awards: Center for Fiction Shortlist

The shortlist has been announced for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. The winner, who will receive a $15,000 award, will be announced at the Center's Awards Benefit on December 3; each of the other finalists receives $1,000. The shortlist:

Indelicacy by Amina Cain (FSG)
These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card (Simon & Schuster)
Temporary by Hilary Leichter (Emily Books/Coffee House Press)
Luster by Raven Leilani (FSG)
The Redshirt by Corey Sobel (University Press of Kentucky)
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Grove Press)
How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books)

National Reading Group Month: Great Group Reads

The National Reading Group Month/Great Group Reads Committee of the Women's National Book Association has chosen 20 books as this year's list:

Anna Eva Mimi Adam by Marina Antropow Cramer (RunAmok Books)
The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafa (Norton)
The Bitch by Pilar Quintana (World Editions)
Continental Divide by Alex Myers (University of New Orleans Press)
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline (Morrow)
Godshot by Chelsea Bieker (Catapult)
Goshen Road by Bonnie Proudfoot (Swallow Press)
The Hierarchies by Ros Anderson (Dutton)
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (Atria)
In Our Midst by Nancy Jensen (Dzanc Books)
Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith (Scribe US)
The Last Goldfish by Anita Lahey (Biblioasis)
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim (Picador)
The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels (Hub City Press)
The Road to Urbino by Roma Tearne (Gallic)
The Royal Abduls by Ramiza Shamoun Koya (Forest Avenue Press)
Tea by the Sea by Donna Hemans (Red Hen Press)
Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify by Carolyn Holbrook (University of Minnesota Press)
The Wanting Life by Mark Rader (Unnamed Press)
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur (Mariner)

The books were chosen by a committee of 42 readers out of 223 titles, submitted by publishers, released between October 1, 2019, and September 30, 2020.

Great Group Reads chairperson Kristen Knox said: "Once again the selection committee has chosen an outstanding collection of novels and memoirs to highlight for book clubs this year. The choices fit in beautifully with the difficult and necessary discussions we are having as a nation and in our own homes right now. They are provocative, engaging and diverse, and they offer book clubs of all stripes much to discuss and consider about our shared past, present and future."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, October 13:

A Time for Mercy by John Grisham (Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385545969) is the third thriller with Jake Brigance.

His Dark Materials: Serpentine by Philip Pullman, illus. by Tom Duxbury (Knopf, $12.99, 9780593377680) is a previously unpublished manuscript written in 2004.

The Luckiest Man: Life with John McCain by Mark Salter (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781982120931) is a memoir by the late Senator's longtime co-author.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, illus. by Danica Novgorodoff (Atheneum/Dlouhy, $19.99, 9781534444959) is a graphic novel reimagining of Reynolds's YA Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honor winner.

The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again by Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett (Simon & Schuster, $32.50, 9781982129149) explores the detrimental social impacts of personal greed.

Milk Street: Cookish: Throw It Together by Christopher Kimball (Voracious, $35, 9780316540308) includes 200 recipes.

Ottolenghi Flavor: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (Ten Speed Press, $35, 9780399581755) explores flavor through 100 plant-based recipes.

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell (Atria, $28, 9781982137335) is a suspense novel about a girl's disappearance.

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316479257) is the 23rd Inspector Rebus mystery.

Lightbringer by Claire Legrand (Sourcebooks Fire, $18.99, 9781492656685) is the third and final installment in the YA Empirium trilogy.

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke (Ballantine, $17, 9780593160336).

Shuggie Bain: A Novel by Douglas Stuart (Grove Press, $17, 9780802148506).

Simmer Down by Sarah Smith (Berkley, $16, 9781984805447).

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:

Here We Are by Graham Swift (Knopf, $22.95, 9780525658054). "Here We Are is a beautiful evocation of love, memory, and magic. With mesmerizing prose, Swift tells the tale of Jack, Ronnie, and Evie, who form a bond in the summer of 1959 when they work together at a variety show in Brighton, England. Ronnie hires Evie to be part of his magic act, and the two soon fall in love. Jack, the show's master of ceremonies, is Ronnie's best friend but he knows little about Ronnie's childhood experiences during the war. Fifty years later, Evie is looking back at their lives and what happened during the summer that changed everything. This quiet, compact novel soars with the grace and poignant feeling of Swift's masterful writing." --Lori Feathers, Interabang Books, Dallas, Tex.

Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream by Mychal Denzel Smith (Bold Type Books, $26, 9781568588735). "Here it is: The book we've been waiting for that we didn't even know we were waiting for. This book is here to fan the flames of our righteous indignation and our demands for better sooner. This book will make your blood boil over just in time to bring it to the polls in November. Like a mother lion, it picks you up by the scruff of your neck--mewling and new to the world of antiracism--and demands that you walk on your own. Thank goodness this book exists." --Charlotte Colaluca, Mystery to Me, Madison, Wis.

The Chestnut Man: A Novel by Søren Sveistrup (Harper Paperbacks, $16.99, 9780062895370). "This is the thriller of the year! From the creator of the Scandinavian mini-series The Killing, The Chestnut Man is an unbelievably fast-paced and exciting page-turner. I literally had trouble putting it down so I could go to sleep! A serial killer is on the loose, a cold case kidnapping is brought back to life, and a politician is attacked from all sides. This is the kind of book Thomas Harris would write, and it's one of the best-plotted mysteries in a long time. What a wonderful group of vivid characters and what a ride! Whew!" --William Carl, An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass.

For Ages 4 to 8
Margaret's Unicorn by Briony May Smith (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, 9781984896537). "I want to climb inside Margaret's Unicorn and live in this magical world. Margaret's family has just moved to a cottage in the hills to stay with her grandmother when she finds a baby unicorn lost from its tribe. Her grandmother teaches her how to take care of the unicorn, who quickly becomes part of their family, until the next spring, when its mother returns. A beautiful, magical tale about saving wildlife, nurturing it, and knowing when it's time to return it back to nature." --Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 9 to 12
Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee (Random House Graphic, $20.99, 9780593125328). "Lora doesn't want to grow up like the rest of her friends; she wants to keep playing outside, imagining far-away places and crazy adventures. When she meets Alexa, a ghost about her age, Lora thinks she has solved her problem--she doesn't want to grow up, and Alexa never will. But as their friendship grows and Lora begins to meet more living people who have similar interests, they both begin to realize that maybe growing up isn't bad, it's just hard." --Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, Colo.

For Teen Readers
The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi (Wednesday Books, $18.99, 9781250144577). "Roshani Chokshi is back with her amazing characters and gorgeous writing that make it so hard for me to put her books down. The Silvered Serpents is a perfect follow up to The Gilded Wolves. Picking up a few months from where we left off, we join the characters as they're all grieving the death of a friend. We explore each character more fully while they work together to solve the mystery of The Divine Lyrics. But everyone has secrets, and those secrets are creating cracks and fissures within the group. I loved every aching, heartbreaking moment of this book and can't wait for the finale. Chokshi is at the top of her game with this sequel!" --Mary Ruthless, Foggy Pine Books, Boone, N.C.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: To Be a Man

To Be a Man: Stories by Nicole Krauss (Harper, $26.99 hardcover, 240p., 9780062431028, November 3, 2020)

Closure is hard to come by for the predominantly Jewish characters in To Be a Man, the unsparing, wistful and finespun first collection of short fiction by the novelist Nicole Krauss (Forest Dark, among others). As one character puts it, "History was what happened to other people while the Jews were waiting for the Messiah to come."

Even divorce and death are unfinished business for Krauss's cast. In "End Days," a teenager who must deliver her parents' judgment of divorce to a rabbi finds the cause of their split frustratingly elusive and her parents' lack of rancor perplexing: "No one was hurt; each had gotten what they wanted. They were in agreement about no longer needing to agree on how to live the rest of their lives." In "The Husband," a social services agent shows up at the Tel Aviv apartment of a 73-year-old widow and presents an old man to her as her husband.

Catastrophes of varying orders of magnitude undergird most of To Be a Man's 10 stories. In "Future Emergencies," a New Yorker living in the post-9/11 city mulls over her new government-issue gas mask, as well as her relationship with her longtime live-in boyfriend. In "I Am Asleep but My Heart Is Awake," a motherless young woman copes with the recent death of her father in New York by moving to Tel Aviv and taking up residence in his second apartment. For Krauss's characters, the urge to migrate seems inborn but doesn't tend to correlate with happiness. Tamar (in "The Husband"), a divorced New Yorker who grew up in Tel Aviv and is deeply suspicious of the strange man the social services agent has foisted upon her mother, thinks of herself as "someone whose roots are sown in two places and so can never grow deeply enough in either."

Krauss's stories can read like character studies, proceeding at a deliberate pace that reflects her protagonists' preoccupation with examining one facet of their lives, or maybe someone else's. Characters are both hamstrung and buoyed by what one calls "the absurdity, and also the truth, of the dramas we need to feel fully alive." To Be a Man is a sure-handed collection about, and well suited to, unsure times. The narrator of "Amour," who is living in a refugee camp, might be referring to Krauss's work when he observes of the sea, "It reminded us that there were still beautiful places left." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Novelist Nicole Krauss's unstinting and lovely first collection features 10 character-study-like stories largely populated with Jews who find the past ever present.

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