Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 1, 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


Our Best Books of 2020

What a year. These are the 10 fiction and 10 nonfiction titles that really stood out to us at Shelf Awareness for helping us make it through, sometimes make sense of, and find some pleasurable moments in 2020. (Click here to see our reviews of these titles; our Best Children's/YA list is here.)

City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford (Grove)
Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown)
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, trans. by Sophie Hughes (New Directions)
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu (Pantheon)
Luster by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Gallery/Saga)
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
Real Life by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead)
Revolutions of All Colors by Dewaine Farria (Syracuse University)

African American Poetry, edited by Kevin Young (Library of America)
The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper (Riverhead)
The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson (Ecco)
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
Homie: Poems by Danez Smith (Graywolf)
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad (Sourcebooks)
Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey (Ecco)
Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford (Little, Brown)
Something that May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Mallory Ortberg (Atria)
Veritas by Ariel Sabar (Doubleday)

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

Fla.'s Hawseys Book Index Closing

Hawseys Book Index, the Pensacola, Fla., new and used bookstore founded in 1968, is closing permanently. In an announcement to customers, owners (and sisters) Dinah Tronu and Lana Creary said the "bittersweet" decision came because they are retiring and "beginning a new chapter of our own stories.... We will miss each and every one of you."

They encouraged customers "to come see us. Come visit us. Come find some new adventures. Come find the treasures inside these walls. Come take it all in. Come smell the books. Come and buy all the books you have been waiting to read. Come start your Christmas shopping. Come and tell us your favorite memories of our shop." All shelves, furniture, and art are for sale. "You can even buy the business (we would love that)!"

According to the Pensacola News Journal, the sisters have no firm closing date in mind, and plan to sell as much inventory as possible in the holiday season, then "re-evaluate their situation in a month or two."

Hawseys Book Index was founded by Tronu and Creary's parents, Alice and Wade Hawsey, as a retailer of furniture, jewelry, appliances, used books and other products. Over time, the store focused more and more on books, and added new books in 1980. Not long after that, the sisters took over the store from their parents.

"We never could find an exit strategy," Tronu told the News Journal. "We would say, 'Let's talk about it.' We are sisters, and we have differences of opinion. Basically the bottom line was, Lana just said that in her heart, she's ready. And this is kind of what papa did. He said, 'Girls, I retired twice, I just want to travel. I'm going to shoot around the Gulf, come home and read a book. Y'all do this as long as you want to.' "

"We are so blessed to have been able to do this for our customers, because we love them," Creary said.

"It's been a lot of fun," Tronu added. "It really has been a joy for us. Interacting with so many wonderful people and their children and their families."

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

Ferguson Books & More Opens West Fargo Location

Ferguson Books & More, which has locations in Bismarck and Grand Forks, N.Dak., partially opened its new West Fargo location for a sneak preview sale this weekend, Inforum reported. While the store will not have its official grand opening until mid-December, customers were able to come in and fill a bag with used books for $20.

The West Fargo store is located in a 1,200-square-foot space on the ground floor of a newly built development. Like the other Ferguson stores, it is a general-interest bookstore carrying new bestsellers and a wide range of used titles. There are also sections focused on books by local authors and local-interest titles, and a variety of nonbook offerings, including toys.

Founder Dane Ferguson and his wife, Elizabeth, opened the original Ferguson Books & More in Grand Forks 10 years ago, a time when many of the larger chain bookstores in the area were closing. They now have three bricks-and-mortar stores and have run weekend pop-up sales in cities across Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Ferguson observed that while the pandemic has been difficult, community members seem to be rallying around small businesses and looking to books as a way to escape their uncertainty and stress. "It's been a challenging year, but it's been a year that we've seen the fruits of our efforts."

Cider Monday: 'Hoist a Glass' & 'Please Keep It Local'

Now that every day feels like Cyber Monday, thanks to Covid-19, this year's Cider Monday celebrations presented indie booksellers with yet another a new challenge. Bookshop lovers gathering to drink cider on crowded sales floors was definitely on every pandemic restrictions list imaginable.

"Cider Monday Is Coming! A bit changed for Covid-19," noted the Toadstool Bookshops, with stores in Keene, Peterborough and Nashua, N.H. Owner Willard Williams launched Cider Monday seven years ago. "For several years we have celebrated Cider Monday as the alternative to the much hyped Cyber Monday--that day when so many have historically gone online to fill the coffers of the huge online behemoths. Our tradition has been to offer a free cup of cider to those who stopped in to share and express support for shopping in their local 'bricks and mortar' stores.

"We truly believe stores such as ours bring far more vitality to our communities than do huge distant warehouses. This year, however, due to Covid we cannot offer the cider and we realize that many people may prefer to avoid the crowds found in stores and are turning to the web to order gifts. Our hope is that those doing so this year will find the websites of local stores many of whom, such as us, have active sites where you can place your orders online."

Some indie booksellers still found ways to celebrate yesterday. Roundabout Books, Bend, Ore., posted: "Cyber Monday? We prefer Cider Monday! Shop [online] and receive 15% off your purchase! Just enter CIDER20 in the coupon code field at check-out! And.... Stop by for a complimentary cup of spiced apple cider as a Thank You for shopping small!"

An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass., tweeted: "It's #cider time! Stop in today for a #free small, locally sourced apple cider (for take out) with any book or gift purchase, while supplies last!"

Bookish, Fort Smith, Ark., recalled that "in the past, local bookstores have celebrated #cidermonday and offered holiday snacks and warm apple cider to all who enter! Covid has halted that, but you can check our new website!... There are so many ways to help your local independent bookshop, and we long for the days when we can serve you up some delicious treats."

Liz Decker, owner of Caprichos Books, Bel Air, Md., was streaming live from her garage (aka "the bookstore") on Facebook yesterday, promising to be "drinking cider all day, of various forms, and I'll be going live throughout the day, telling you about different books that I have available. The idea is that I will be running sales on books that I have on hand right here, ready to ship and I can ship them out this week so you will get them in time for the holidays."  

Noting that the Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, Vt., has been celebrating Cider Monday for several years by serving local cider and cookies, co-owner Liza Bernard wrote on the shop's blog: "This year it is necessary for safety reasons to embrace online shopping--but that does not mean turning to big box stores or behemoth retailers! We are working hard behind the scenes to simplify the process of ordering from this website. We're adding lots of the great items on our shelves that were not listed before: calendars, socks, cards, games, and toys. It is currently a work in progress--the enhanced site will be up very soon. Now, more than ever, it is important to shop the stores you want to frequent in your post-Covid world."

As Toadstool Bookshops so wisely observed: "So if it is to be a Cyber Monday, hoist a glass of cider before you sit down and be reminded to please keep it local. Thank you!"

How Bookstores Are Coping: Staying Closed to Browsing; Early Shopping Push

In Decatur, Ga., Little Shop of Stories has remained closed to customers since early spring, store co-owner Diane Capriola reported. The case numbers in Georgia, Capriola explained, never got to a place where the team felt comfortable about reopening. And now that cases are "really on the rise again," the store will remain closed to browsing indefinitely.

Little Shop of Stories has essentially become an online fulfillment center, Capriola continued, as the store's web sales have "really taken off." Those also include spring and fall book fairs, which have become virtual during the pandemic. She noted that after an initial learning curve, she and her team are feeling more confident with virtual events, and "we are seeing those results in increased book sales."

Capriola said the "outpouring of love from our community" has really helped sustain the store throughout the pandemic. While some people "don't understand our choice to remain closed to customers," the store's regular customers "continue to stand by us." They send Capriola and her staff notes, their kids draw pictures for the team and they even buy the team lunch from time to time. Capriola added that her landlord has been "incredibly supportive" and has become her "favorite person in the world."

Just before Covid hit, the bookstore did a test run of weekend deliveries. Once the store closed to customers, the team began offering deliveries in the store's ZIP code and adjacent areas. At this point, Capriola said she "can't imagine" the store will ever go back to not offering delivery, and while she hopes the store will become a community meeting place again, she predicts that "a lot of our customers will continue to shop with us online as well as request delivery."

Capriola said the store's holiday buying was generally very conservative, except for highly anticipated titles like A Promised Land or Ready Player Two, and titles that her booksellers had personally championed. Because the store is still closed to browsing, the non-book buying was especially cautious. And as Little Shop of Stories is primarily a children's bookstore, many sidelines will be bundled with a book or two.

Little Shop of Stories began promoting early holiday shopping on October 1, making use of the ABA's "October Is the New December" material. At least initially, it seemed that people were hesitant to spend money, perhaps because of the stress around the election and worsening pandemic. Post-election and with the news of a coming vaccine, the store is "definitely seeing increased optimism."

The pandemic has necessitated changing a lot of the store's long-standing holiday traditions. The Gingerbread Story Time and Holiday Ornament Workshop are both now virtual. Customers can purchase boxed sets for both, featuring special items and links to the virtual events.


Over the past few months, Linden Tree Books in Los Altos, Calif., has been slowly ramping up its hours, reported Chris Saccheri, who co-owns the store with Flo Grosskurth. The store is now open six hours a day, six days a week. That's substantially fewer hours than pre-pandemic, but it "feels like the right amount so far." Saccheri noted that the team has loved having a day off to reset and recharge, so they'll likely stay closed on Mondays for the foreseeable future.

Linden Tree's door "porter"

This month the store began offering private shopping appointments. Each 30-minute slot is limited to a single family. They've been so popular, said Saccheri, that the team has had to increase the number of slots available, both before and after regular store hours. Most of the people scheduling appointments are either unable or unwilling to come to the store during normal browsing or they want "focused time with a bookseller for gift recommendations."

Saccheri said the California Independent Booksellers Alliance holiday catalog has been huge for the store this year, and this was the first year that the store has branded the catalog and inserted it into the local newspaper. The response has led to great traffic both online and in-store. And even though the store is primarily a children's bookstore, they've seen a significant bump in adult sales this year. Local deliveries and private shopping appointments, Saccheri added, are "likely here to stay."

Like many stores, Linden Tree scaled back its frontlist buying for the holidays, though the team still tried to bring in a diverse selection of titles. Quantities were generally smaller, with the exception of the "blockbusters." The store rolled out a set of pre-made holiday gift bundles this week and built a mystery wheel for Black Friday/Small Business Saturday. When customers check out, a staff member spins the wheel and "your prize could be anything from a discount on your purchase to a free ARC."

The team has been pushing the shop-early message, and has seen a surge of holiday shopping over the past few weeks. But, Saccheri pointed out, "procrastination is a tough habit to break! We'll see what happens in December." --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Ben Bova

Ben Bova

Ben Bova, scientist, multiple Hugo Award winner, and prolific science fiction author and editor, died on Sunday, November 29, of complications from Covid-19 and a stroke. He was 88. Bova wrote more than a hundred books, edited some of science fiction's best-known publications, and was president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) for two terms 1990-1992 and was president of the National Space Society.

He began his career in a way that, said, "brought experience to the science fiction genre that few authors could match": he was a technical editor for Project Vanguard, the U.S.'s first effort to launch a satellite into space in 1958. Bova then was a science writer for Avco Everett Research Laboratory, which built the heat shields for the Apollo 11 module.

Bova published his first novel, The Star Conquerors, in 1959, and followed up with dozens of others, as well as numerous short stories that appeared in, among other publications, Amazing Stories, Analog Science Fact and Fiction and Galaxy Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

In 1971, Bova became editor of Analog following the death of its longtime editor, John W. Campbell Jr. According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Bova maintained the publication's tendencies towards technological realism and Hard SF, "but considerably broadened its horizons." While there, he published notable stories such as Joe Haldeman's "Hero" (which became The Forever War) and earned the Hugo Award for Best Editor for numerous consecutive years before stepping down in 1977. He then became the first editor of Omni magazine, until leaving in 1982, and consulted on television shows such as The Starlost and Land of the Lost.

Among other honors and awards, as noted by the SFWA, Bova was the Author Guest of Honor at Chicon 2000, the 58th Worldcon, was a lifetime achievement recipient from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, a Robert A. Heinlein Award winner, a Skylark recipient, and an inductee into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. In 1995, his story "Inspiration" was a Nebula finalist.

Bova's best-known works, observed, involved "plausible sciences about humanity's expansion into the universe, looking at how we might adapt to live in space with novels such as 1992's Mars, about the first human expedition to the red planet. He followed that novel up with additional installments, forming the Grand Tour series, which explored all of the solar system's major bodies." The latest installment, Uranus, was published in July, and was scheduled to be the first of a trilogy. The second installment, Neptune, is scheduled for release next year.


PEN America Gala Honorees Include Barack Obama, Patti Smith

Bestselling author and former President Barack Obama is receiving the PEN America 2020 Voice of Influence Award at the organization's virtual gala, to be held Tuesday, December 8, 7-8:30 p.m. Eastern. Historian and former PEN America president Ron Chernow will engage with Obama in a "writer-to-writer conversation" about the President's new memoir, A Promised Land, and "why the freedom to write matters now more than ever."

Other honorees are author-poet-singer-musician Patti Smith, recipient of the PEN/Audible Literary Service Award; Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine, and Darnella Frazier, who filmed George Floyd's murder, both receiving the PEN/Benenson Courage Award; Chinese dissident writer Xu Zhiyong, recipient of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award; and Frank Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman and former CEO of Hearst, who is the 2020 PEN America Corporate Honoree.

This year's virtual PEN America Gala merges the organization's usual New York Literary Gala and Los Angeles LitFest Gala. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Chalkboard: The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook, Woodstock, N.Y., shared a photo of its recent Star Wars + Covid-themed chalkboard message:

Be More Vader
Wears a mask
Follows orders
Doesn't visit children
Socially (& emotionally) distant

Personnel Changes at Tom Doherty Associates

Becky Yeager has been promoted to manager, ad promo and marketing at Tom Doherty Associates.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Eric Dyson on Colbert's Late Show

Drew Barrymore Show: Jenny Slate, author of Little Weirds (Back Bay, $16.99, 9780316485364).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Michael Eric Dyson, author of Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250276759).

Movies: Pinocchio

The English-language version of Monatteo Garrone's reimagining of the classic children's tale Pinocchio, starring Roberto Benigni and Federico Ielapi, will be released on Christmas Day in theaters in the U.S. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Roadside Attractions hopes to debut the movie in more than 2,000 theaters even though in "recent days, hundreds of cinemas have been forced to reclose because of the ongoing pandemic. At the same time, those locations that remain open need product."

"We love the emotional and fantastical storytelling of this new Pinocchio, and, with what's shaping up to be a ​challenging holiday season for families, we think this English-language version will be a welcoming escape for​ any kids and parents with a nose for adventure and mischief," said Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d'Arbeloff.

Books & Authors

Awards: Grammy Spoken Word Nominees

Among the nominations for the 2021 Grammy Awards, which will be televised January 31, are some book-related ones. In the Best Spoken Word Album category (which includes poetry, audiobooks & storytelling), the nominees are:

Acid for the Children: A Memoir by Flea (Hachette Audio)
The Answer Is...: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek, read by Trebek and Ken Jennings (S&S Audio)
Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and The Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth by Rachel Maddow (Random House Audio)
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (Hachette Audio)
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, read by Meryl Streep & full cast (Listening Library)

Book Review

Review: The Big She-Bang: The Herstory of the Universe According to God the Mother

The Big She-Bang: The Herstory of the Universe According to God the Mother by Marisa Acocella (Harper Wave, $32.50 hardcover, 256p., 9780062905666, November 17, 2020)

Marisa Acocella (Cancer Vixen) imagines a boisterous convention of female goddesses, heroes and saints in her illuminating graphic novel The Big She-Bang: The Herstory of the Universe According to God the Mother. Acocella's avatar comes face to face with God the Mother--clad in a sparkling pantsuit and metallic blue ankle boots--who presides over a pageant of compelling women from fable and history. "Everything you've been taught is wrong," she tells Acocella. The Bible, says God the Mother, written by men about men, "is not exactly a testament to the unrivaled awesomeness of our divine feminine power!" This statement is the overture for a surprising cast of characters who introduce Acocella to feminine power figures across the ages.

"The law of creation is a law of balance," Acocella is told. She meets a multitude of largely forgotten early female divinities. The West African creator goddess Mawu and the biblical Eve--who brought down paradise through her desire for knowledge--are exemplars of women who rebelled against the male God and became a "scapegoat of humanity." The feminine figures in these pages, representing a range of shapes and ethnicities, are shaded and cloaked in vastly different ways and yet, perhaps intentionally, look like they're all somehow related. The women have a modern sensibility when speaking, as when Green Tara, Mother of all Buddhism, explains, "Buddhahood is gender inclusive.... I wear rainbow leggings for a reason."

Full-page illustrations and multiple panels explode with color and action, smoothly coordinating visual and textual information. For example, when God the Mother points out female symbolism present in church architecture, she announces, "as far as keeping women out of the church, we're in the church," and readers won't look at cathedral arches the same way ever again. The shameless irreverence in these pages is not so much for religion and history--although it's that, too--as it is an abundance of joy these women have in finding their voice on these pages. "You say you want a shevolution?" the Blessed Mother Mary asks rhetorically (with a wink at the Beatles).

Readers will scour the illustrations for small visual treats and refer to the comprehensive bibliography when they meet unfamiliar figures. Acocella's modern illustrations with an eye toward classic comic tropes are wonderfully suited for this fierce work, perfect for fans of Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Alison Bechdel. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Shelf Talker: This graphic novel is an irreverent and thoroughly modern retelling of history by female divinities throughout the ages.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Dawnshard: From the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
2. The Winning Game Plan by Jamey Rootes
3. Mail-Order Brides for Christmas by Various
4. A Seagrove Christmas (South Carolina Sunsets Book 6) by Rachel Hanna
5. Seabreeze Christmas by Jan Moran
6. Another Moment in Time by Susan Stoker
7. One Time Only by Lauren Blakely
8. SEAL Justice (Brotherhood Protectors Book 13) by Elle James
9. Time After Time by Melody Grace
10. Make Me Yours by Melanie Harlow

[Many thanks to!]

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