Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 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


Powell's Books Permanently Closing Its Home & Garden Store

Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., is permanently closing its Powell's Books for Home & Garden store in southeast Portland, the company announced yesterday. Powell's Books for Home & Garden, which specialized in books on cooking and entertaining, decorating and remodeling, gardening and landscape design, and crafts like knitting, jewelry making and woodworking, is on Hawthorne Boulevard, two doors away from the Powell's Books on Hawthorne store, which will remain open. Powell's Books for Home & Garden has been closed since mid-March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Besides Powell's Books on Hawthorne, Powell's operates its flagship Powell's City of Books downtown and has another store in Beaverton. In July, Powell's permanently closed its store at Portland International Airport.

Powell's Books owner and president Emily Powell said, "Powell's Home & Garden store has been an important, and unique, part of our business for many years. Unfortunately it was also an increasingly challenging part of our business as retail continues its evolution. With the onslaught of this year, we simply could not find a way to bring it through 2020 and 2021 and into an unknown future. We are grateful to the customers and employees who made it such a special place for so long, and think with sadness about a Powell's without Home & Garden."

In 2016, Powell's had planned to combine the two locations on Hawthorne Boulevard "to make one enormous store but ultimately withdrew those plans," the Oregonian noted.

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

Two New England Stores Shut Temporarily After Positive Covid Tests

Both Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., and Trident Booksellers & Cafe in Boston, Mass., closed temporarily after a staff member at each store tested positive for Covid-19.

In the case of Bank Square Books, the employee last worked in the store this past Saturday, December 5, and was not experiencing symptoms at the time. (The employee had been tested as part of a community testing drive, not because of possible exposure to Covid-19.) The store has been closed to undergo a deep cleaning and to give other staff members time to get tested and receive their results. Owner Annie Philbrick hopes to reopen by this coming Friday, December 11, and will announce more concrete plans soon. She added that Title IX, a holiday pop-up that the store is operating in New London, Conn., is also temporarily closed. In the meantime, Bank Square Books will continue to process web orders, but curbside pick-up is temporarily suspended. Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly, R.I., was unaffected and remains open under the stores' regular Covid-19 safety guidelines.

At Trident Booksellers & Cafe, an employee tested positive after working at the store last Wednesday, December 2, without symptoms. According to Courtney Flynn, Trident's v-p and manager, that staff member is now experiencing mild symptoms but is otherwise doing okay. The store closed last Saturday, December 5, to allow for a thorough cleaning and give staff members time to get tested, and Flynn noted that anyone who worked in close contact with that bookseller will not be able to return to work without a negative test.

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

B&N's Book of the Year: World of Wonders

Barnes & Noble booksellers have chosen World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (Milkweed Editions) as the 2020 Book of the Year.

B&N said that "Nezhukumatathil writes of the natural world as she remembers, of creatures and things of wonder. In so doing, she illuminates her childhood and creates a form of biography that is lyrical and absorbing. An acclaimed poet, Aimee Nezhukumatathil has crafted a very unusual work that is inspiring and uplifting, a book to be treasured."

B&N CEO James Daunt commented: "The magpie eye of the bookseller cares nothing for algorithms or marketing budgets. It cares only for the quality of the book. In a year of brilliant publishing, this luminous and joyous book has been acclaimed by our booksellers. World of Wonders is a captivating book, immensely powerful in the quiet way with which it celebrates the natural world and what it is to love and to belong. The beautiful writing is complemented by lovely illustrations in what is a celebration also of the art of book design. I join the booksellers of Barnes & Noble in recommending unreservedly this very special book."

Milkweed Editions publisher and CEO Daniel Slager added: "When World of Wonders first arrived in my inbox, I had a strong sense that we were on to something very special. The world needs this book now. The world needs Aimee's inclusive vision and singular light. Kudos to Barnes & Noble for elevating her voice!"

Nezhukumatathil said, "Having World of Wonders chosen as the Book of the Year is an astonishment for this former hapless chemistry major who wandered the aisles of Barnes & Noble in college in a big city--my first time away from home. Barnes & Noble was a refuge and a place where I could immerse myself in books and get my questions about this planet answered. It is not lost on me that I barely saw any books about the outdoors by someone who looked like me so I'm especially humbled and honored that the booksellers made a space for me at the table."

International Update: Small Business Saturday U.K., #NoëlSansAmazon

Small Business Saturday U.K., the annual campaign to promote shopping locally, took place this past weekend. With indie bookshops reopening Wednesday in England after a nearly month in lockdown, there were many reasons to celebrate, even during trying times.

"Today is Saturday and we are a small business. Therefore it is, as it is every week #SmallBusinessSaturday, but this week we get to piggy back on the annual promotion @SmallBizSatUK so come along everyone #shoplocal, @1totallylocally, @LocallyStockton," Drake the Bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees tweeted.

At Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Norwich, "not only did we finally beat our opening day 'best day ever' we smashed it! Truly wonderful day that deserved a #HappyBooksellerDance. We're exhausted but thrilled to have put so many books into your hands. Thank you everyone, not just for today but for everything you've done to support our silliness throughout. We feel buoyant and like a corner has been turned in the last few months. Across the country other indie bookshops have been reporting a similar story since we all reopened on Wednesday. Whether it's the support local message, the importance of community, the love of discovering books in a friendly place, or just that there are some amazing books available right now it's making us booksellers love our jobs so much more and want to find new ways to be better at it. You're all awesome. Enjoy our happy dance. It had to be sped up because we were pathetically tired."

Also in a celebratory mood was Pigeon Books, Southsea: "What a lovely surprise on #smallbusinesssaturday to have been nominated for Best Small Shop 2020! Thank you to our wonderful customers for voting for us and @stephenmorganmp for being such a champion for indie businesses in Portsmouth."


French booksellers are leading a "groundswell of resistance against Amazon's marketplace dominance," reported, adding that the "resistance became fiercer during the lockdowns as bookshops closed but Amazon's business soared." Pushback includes a petition for a #NoëlSansAmazon (Christmas without Amazon) that has been backed by politicians such as Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

François Jousseaume, owner of Librairie Jousseaume in Paris, said, "Amazon is an octopus. They take over everything. They eat up every online bookseller. We'll just end up working for them.... When people come here, they don't know what to expect. There is a shiver of discovery. But Amazon is a perversion of bookselling. They sell anything: books, brooms, sausages, it does not matter."

Danielle Cillien Sabatier, general manager at Librairie Galignani, which was founded in 1801, said Amazon is "a service. They have nothing to do with bookshops. It would be like David and Goliath. But what I find shocking is that they do not pay taxes.... We can offer something that Amazon's algorithms cannot. We work in the old way, talking to publishers, writers and customers. We have a certain depth."

At Librairie L'Ecume des Pages, bookseller Julien Doussinault said: "We're not scared of Amazon. But we don't like what they do. This is not about online sales--everyone does online sales." Doussinault takes issue with Amazon's previous run-ins with tax authorities, including in France, describing the company's behavior as "disgusting."

Nicolas Wanstok, owner of Les Mots à la Bouche, called Amazon "a negative force.... What is hardest to swallow is the speed. It gives people a sense of magic deliveries. But there are people here working at the shop. Humans. The bookshop matters."


On Saturday, Love Books, Johannesburg, South Africa, celebrated Festive shopping day, noting on Facebook: "A general all-round festive day happening at The Bamboo Centre tomorrow. At Love Books it's 10% off for the day. Books make the best gifts, especially after a year like 2020. From sportsmen to philosophers, economists to historians, artists to travelers, cooks to bush lovers, toddlers to teens, you will find something for everyone on your gift list. #festiveshoppingday"


Cool idea of the day: "Socially-Distanced Mistletoe." British bookseller Kenilworth Books posted: "We've a tradition of hanging mistletoe outside the bookshop, and we didn't want to break it. So this year we have two bunches of mistletoe, 2 meters apart. No actual kissing of strangers please. Socially distanced 'Mwah's only." --Robert Gray

M. Judson Booksellers Begins Wholesale Stationery Division

M. Judson Booksellers, Greenville, S.C., has started a wholesaler division called Camilla Goods, selling a line of products with a literary focus, beginning with bookmarks.

The Flagship Ticket Collection of bookmarks is inspired by "the old-fashioned kind of travel, the kind that might have required a steamer trunk or an evening gown," while the Literary Classics Collection draws on events in beloved books and stories and challenges the user to figure out the connections. Camilla Goods plans to add more bookmarks as well as literature-themed stationery and stationery items to its offerings.

Camilla Goods sells to bookstores, gift shops, museum shops and stationery stores, partnering with Faire online. The bookmarks are printed in Greenville, S.C.

"We started Camilla Goods because we couldn't find the types of bookmarks we wanted to sell in our own store," owner June Wilcox said. "We wanted something with heft, a reminder of the airline boarding passes we used while reading books when traveling in bygone days. Those boarding passes, and the books we read in flight, took us places. We wanted to design and distribute the kinds of products that delight us: bookmarks, stationery, and ephemera for the bookish lifestyle."

Marketing director Aubrae Wagner added, "There's really nothing else like our bookmarks on the market. They are unique in their vintage design and literary-based subjects. Customers are drawn to the vintage look and are delighted by the subtle literary tie-ins. Customers are also impressed with the quality and presentation of the bookmarks."

Wilcox said that reaction has been positive. "Bookstores are ready to do business again and to connect with their customers," she said. "Independent bookstores, specifically, and boutique retailers, in general, have always been a resilient lot, and we will continue to be so throughout the months ahead."

Obituary Note: Carlo D'Este

Lt. Col. Carlo D'Este died on November 21 of a heart attack at his home in Mashpee, Mass. He was a decorated soldier as well as a military historian and biographer. He was 84.

On his retirement from the army in 1978, he began writing military history, for which he won many prizes and achieved international recognition. Among his seven books, perhaps the best-known is A Genius for War: A Life of General George S. Patton (Harper Perennial). He also wrote biographies of Eisenhower and Churchill as well the World War II books Decision in Normandy, Bitter Victory and Fatal Decision. He was awarded the Andrew Goodpaster Prize and, in 2011, the Pritzker Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. D'Este was asked to advise President Clinton at the White House before the president's visit to Normandy and Italy, in 1994, on the 50th anniversary of D-Day.


Image of the Day: Storyhouse Bookpub's Holiday Market

Storyhouse Bookpub in Des Moines, Iowa, held its first sales event over the weekend: an open-air Holiday Book Market. Owner Abigail J. Paxton reported that "the Des Moines community came out wearing masks for distanced holiday shopping and brought their kids for a storytime in the yard. The event included a local bakery, coffee shop and bookmark artist." Paxton plans to host two more Holiday Book Markets this month. The local news, WHO-13, featured a report on the event.

Paxton established Storyhouse Bookpub in March, just as the pandemic arrived. Since then, she's worked with local gift shop MoMere to set up a mini children's bookstore in its children's section, hosted a Little Free Library launch party book swap, and begun building a community of local readers online. Her plan is to continue creating community events for readers in Des Moines and eventually open a bricks-and-mortar store.

Happy 40th Birthday, Book Bin!

Congratulations to Book Bin, Onley, Va., on the Delmarva Peninsula, which celebrated its 40th year in business on Saturday, the Eastern Shore Post reported. Owner Philip Wilson purchased the business in 2016 from Susan Tyler and Mary Smolinski, who had been the second set of owners, after founders E.A. McMath and Joanna Snyder.

Wilson has fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning a bookstore after a 30-year career in college teaching and administration, the Eastern Shore Post wrote, adding: "Among longstanding traditions in the store is the wooden gingerbread house, which has been in the store from the beginning and where generations of children have come to play while their elders browse."

"Apart from the bookshelves, that's the single longest-standing structure in here," said Wilson, who recently added artwork to the inventory. "They are all local folks."

He added that the shop's employees make Book Bin special: "It is the staff--they are the gold of this institution. It is their collective backgrounds and wisdom and insights that I lean on very heavily.... To build what this store is, the vision that people see--it's the ideas of everyone who works here."

Bookseller Cat: Cedric at City Lights Bookstore

Cedric, "the socially distanced bookstore cat," was showcased by City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, N.C., which shared a photo of the bookseller feline while noting that the shop "offers free gift wrapping throughout the year. Open for up to nine in-store browsers at a time. Wear a mask and please try to give others a six-foot berth. Curb service is also available.... Visit CityLightsNC dot com to find books, preorder winter and spring releases, or purchase gift cards/codes."

Macmillan to Distribute, Help Develop Titles for Encantos

Macmillan Publishers is handling distribution for the publishing catalog of Encantos, an ed-tech company that aims to inspire kids to learn "21st century skills" and whose products include subscription apps and boxes, animated series, books, puzzles and games. The two companies will also jointly develop new titles based on existing and future Encantos products. These include Canticos, the bilingual preschool brand inspired by Latinx culture that helps children become kindergarten-ready in two languages; Tiny Travelers, which teaches kids about geography, language and culture via immersive storytelling, activities, and games; and Skeletitos, inspired by the "Day of the Dead," which teaches kids how to overcome their fears and anxieties.

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group president Jon Yaged said, "Encantos is at the cutting edge of bringing diverse voices to children's entertainment and education. Their team is phenomenally creative and consistently discovers and nurtures new, underrepresented creators who tell stories inspired by culture with universal appeal. They are developing the properties that will be the touchstones of this next generation, the stories that will resonate and shape them."

Encantos CEO and co-founder Steven Wolfe Pereira added: "With over 50% of kids in America today being multicultural, there is an incredible hunger for more diverse voices. We work with authentic storytellers, to tell authentic stories with mass appeal from diverse perspectives. However, we go way beyond just telling a simple story. We bring our stories to life through Storyteaching. We match each story with the 21st century learning, literacy, and life skills they best model. Encantos is leading the way with the stories that need to be told, with the skills that need to be taught, in the ways that children learn best."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bob Gruen on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Bob Gruen, author of Right Place, Right Time: The Life of a Rock & Roll Photographer (Abrams, $32.50, 9781419742132).

Drew Barrymore Show: Neil Patrick Harris, author of The Magic Misfits: The Fourth Suit (Little, Brown, $16.99, 9780316391955).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Rachel Maddow, co-author of Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House (Crown, $28, 9780593136683).

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

Tolkien Movie Stars Seek Dominion over Author's Home

Several actors who starred in movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are waging a PR battle "to claim dominion over the birthplace of Middle-earth--though nothing as dramatic as the war against Sauron," Entertainment Weekly reported.

Tolkien's Oxford home is up for sale, and the celebrities are calling on fans to help a charity organization purchase the property to create a literary center dedicated to the author. Project Northmoor, a $6 million fundraising campaign, launched December 2. Author Julia Golding, one of the organizers, negotiated a three-month fundraising window with the current owner.

Participating celebrities include Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli, Treebeard) from The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Martin Freeman (Bilbo) from The Hobbit; and Annie Lennox (singer of the Oscar-winning "Into the West" from the Return of the King soundtrack).

"We cannot achieve this without the support of the worldwide community of Tolkien fans, our fellowship of funders," McKellen said.

Rhys-Davies added: "Unbelievably, considering his importance, there is no center devoted to Tolkien anywhere in the world. The vision is to make Tolkien's house into a literary hub that will inspire new generations of writers, artists, and filmmakers for many years to come."

Books & Authors

Awards: William Hill Sports Book, Bookseller/Diagram Oddest Title Winners

Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov won the £30,000 (about $39,715) William Hill Sports Book of the Year for The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Russia's Secret Doping Empire. In addition to the cash prize, the winner receives a leather-bound copy of his book.

Chair of judges Alyson Rudd said, "This year produced a particularly strong shortlist [borne out] by the intense and passionate debate among the judging panel. The Rodchenkov Affair was praised for its searing honesty and bravery."

The book's editor, Drummond Moir, deputy publisher at Ebury/PRH UK, commented: "We're thrilled that this unique book has received such a prestigious award. Grigory Rodchenkov's memoir offers readers the full, unadulterated story that was first glimpsed in Bryan Fogel's award-winning documentary Icarus, in Grigory's own voice and words. He's created a breathtakingly candid memoir, one that takes the reader on a journey through a rigged system of flawed individuals and moral choices."


This year's winner of the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path: Animal Metaphors in Eastern Indonesian Society, marks the "first-ever win of the august literary prize by a Canadian author--the University of Alberta anthropologist Gregory Forth--while McGill-Queen's University Press now becomes the only Canadian publisher to grab the crown," the Bookseller reported.   

Prize administrator Horace Bent said: "There has been little to shout about in a difficult year, but A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path is something to cherish, as long as you stay a good meter or two away and, perhaps, wear some stout wellies. Congratulations to Gregory Forth and McGill-Queen's University Press: I am sure the champagne--or I guess something else--will certainly be flowing as they celebrate A Dog Pissing's hard-earned victory." 

Forth said: "I'm naturally (zoologically?) pleased by this award, and many thanks to the Bookseller. They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I hope prospective readers might be attracted to this one by its title. It is a serious book, but the animal metaphors it explores are often humorous as well--even in English."

Book Review

Review: The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution by Yang Jisheng, trans. by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40 hardcover, 768p., 9780374293130, January 19, 2021)

The World Turned Upside Down is a detailed, deeply researched history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, precisely tracking the complex currents and countercurrents that devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens from 1966 to 1976. The Cultural Revolution is still a highly sensitive topic in China: journalist Yang Jisheng's lengthy book, translated and pared down from its original immensity, was published in Hong Kong and "cannot be legally sold or circulated in mainland China." Indeed, the book presents a highly unflattering picture of Mao Zedong and the ruling "bureaucratic clique" that, from the author's perspective, "won" the Cultural Revolution at a terrible cost to both ordinary citizens and bureaucrats.

While official histories often pin the blame for the chaos and destruction of the Cultural Revolution on the rebel factions that proliferated during the period, Yang takes a much more top-down view. The World Turned Upside Down shows that the Cultural Revolution began as Mao's attempt to attack his enemies in the bureaucracy and "clear away obstacles for his envisaged paradise." However, the bureaucratic clique fought back, and Mao's calls for continuous revolution were followed by waves of repression in a constant back-and-forth that paralyzed the economy and resulted in terrible violence. Yang argues that the bureaucratic clique came out on top, after Mao's death effectively ended the Cultural Revolution in 1976, setting the stage for the economic expansion and widespread corruption of modern China.

The World Turned Upside Down is packed with detail, carefully tracking the moves and countermoves of bureaucrats and rebels, the frequent reversals of fortune that suddenly turned heroes into enemies and vice versa, the constant maneuvering in the corridors of power and Mao's fickle decision-making. In that sense, the book feels both authoritative and not for the faint of heart. Yang does not go out of his way to arrange the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution into an easy-to-digest narrative. Instead, he presents the facts and mostly lets them speak for themselves, only occasionally dropping in a personal anecdote (Yang was a student in Beijing and participated when the revolution began). Which isn't to say The World Turned Upside Down lacks perspective: Yang's careful accumulation of facts becomes a moral accounting, providing a model for how rigorous scholarship can penetrate ideology and arrive at something like the truth. The World Turned Upside Down may be the definitive account of a tragic historic episode. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Shelf Talker: The World Turned Upside Down is a rigorous, lengthy history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that may prove to be the definitive account of the upheaval.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 3 by Alex Berenson
2. Buried in Secrets by Denise Grover Swank
3. Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 2 by Alex Berenson
4. The Revenge Pact by Ilsa Madden-Mills
5. The Not-Outcast by Tijan
6. Make Me Yours by Melanie Harlow
7. The Mistletoe Kisser by Lucy Score
8. Victory at Prescott High by C.M. Stunich
9. Office Grump by Nicole Snow
10. An American Divorce by J.N. Welch

[Many thanks to!]

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