Also published on this date: Wednesday, December 9, 2020: Maximum Shelf: Leave Out the Tragic Parts

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 9, 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


Two Birds Books Coming to Santa Cruz, Calif.

Two Birds Books, a new and used, general-interest independent bookstore in the Pleasure Point neighborhood of Santa Cruz, Calif., will open this Friday, Good Times reported.

Owners Gary Butler and Denise Silva have lived in the area for nearly 20 years, and while they do not have prior experience in bookselling, they are both "completely obsessed with books." Silva is a freelance book editor as well as a lecturer in the writing program at U.C. Santa Cruz, and Butler most recently worked for a mental health provider.

Silva and Butler have wanted to open a store of their own for a long time, but initially put off their plans because of the pandemic. This fall, however, they found a perfect spot and decided not to wait any longer. In mid-October the space was theirs.

"We knew what we were getting into," Silva told Good Times. "It's scary, of course. But we're starting to feel we made the right decision."

Given Covid restrictions, the store won't be hosting a grand opening. Instead, Two Bird Books will have a cozy opening this Friday. The store is offering private browsing sessions, both in person and via Zoom, as well as curbside pick-up.

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

International Update: UK Nets £500K for Indies UK has now made more than £500,000 (about $661,960) for stores since its November 2 launch, the Bookseller reported. The company continues to add more indie bookshops and publishers. In the U.S., has raised just over $9.5 million for indies since starting earlier this year.

"We are thrilled to see readers supporting independent bookshops with online spending at this scale," said Bookshop UK managing director Nicole Vanderbilt. "At the same time, we are delighted to be hearing stories of many local bookshops experiencing some of their biggest days of trading in-store this past week."

Peter Brook, owner of BrOOK's, Pinner, said the website had already made a big difference: "We certainly realize this new online platform is not for every independent bookseller. We can see why some bookshops and chains who have terrific e-commerce sites already question elements of it. However, quite simply, without as the engine behind our e-store our path to opening would have been even tougher."

Some controversy regarding Bookshop UK emerged last week when a letter from bookseller Tamsin Rosewell to Booksellers Association managing director Meryl Halls was leaked to the press. In the letter, Roswell said there was "discontent" among booksellers and publishers that is growing and "increasingly bitter," and described the launch marketing as "far more aggressive than is appropriate." She had also raised concerns over the BA's own role in bringing to the U.K.

Halls told the Bookseller that the exchange of letters had been with Rosewell, and not with a number of booksellers, as was being implied by a New Statesman article. In response to Rosewell's letter, Halls wrote, in part: "Our role has been to facilitate an option for booksellers who needed it, some desperately, and to ensure that its mission continues to be the benefit of indie booksellers. Generally, our role as a trade body has always been more to the practical advantage of independent bookshops, and the chains have always been immensely supportive of that approach; we are a broad church, but a very collegiate one. Our facilitation of is entirely consistent with this approach of targeting member benefits to our membership sectors in a tailored way."

Nic Bottomley, owner of Mr. B's Emporium in Bath, noted that Blackwell's digital director Kieron Smith "has said it is incumbent for booksellers to tell the customers what works for them--and often direct is the very best method, in terms of [shopping] virtually, but is hell of a second best, compared to Amazon. We've got such a busy website that it would make no sense personally for me to direct my customers first and foremost to, but what I do say to customers is if you want another option, and you go to our website and we don't have every singe title on there,  then for sure choose, and I'm going to get a big benefit. Of course it isn't for everyone--we're participating, but it's not the top of our marketing strategy because it wouldn't make sense for us. There are so many bookshops [in America] that basically owe their survival to The bookshops where it can make a huge difference are where there is no online shop at all."


In Canada, two Ottawa booksellers told Capital Current they are more prepared for potential future lockdowns than they were last spring, citing community support as a prime factor.

Black Squirrel Books

Vaughn MacDonald, owner of Black Squirrel Books & Espresso Bar, said the onset of the pandemic was "what I imagine it would be like to watch your country go to war. Chaos in the media, accusations and denial, with heads in the sand. The initial lockdown was a painful blow financially, reducing our revenues by over 90%."

A shift to online orders with curbside pickup, as well as other measures, made the difference, and the community support remained. "We've never felt so welcomed by and connected to our community as we have this year. We won't forget the kindness and support we were shown, as well as by so many other local businesses we collaborated with and received messages of encouragement from. It reminds us that there really is no point in doing business unless you have a place in a community like this. It's a support network like no other."

Recalling last spring's uncertainties, Liam McGahern, owner of McGahern Books, said, "You're terrified of the unknown. How long will we be closed? Will we go bankrupt? If we survive, what will be left of the business?" As for the potential of another lockdown if the province or city doesn't get Covid-19 under control, McGahern said his business is ready. "I don't feel as stressed about it this time around. We've learned that we'll survive."


Bookshops are sharing photos of their holiday decorations on social media, including window displays in France at Librairie De beaux lendemains in Bagnolet, Librairie Les Parages in Paris, and Librairie Chantepages in Tulle.

And British bookseller Sevenoaks Bookshop asked: "How are the woodland families in our window display spending Christmas? Giving, receiving and reading books, of course! Thanks to our wonderfully talented Grace who has created the most beautiful stop motion film. Merry Christmas Everyone!" --Robert Gray

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

Star Line Books Closes

Star Line Books in Chattanooga, Tenn., has closed permanently, owner Star Lowe said. Lowe opened the store in August 2015, and Star Line Books sold a carefully curated selection of fiction and nonfiction titles. It was located in a 1,300 square feet space at 1467 Market Street.

Lowe added that she's been directing anyone inquiring about books to her "fellow Indie bookstores for all their bookish needs."

Bookseller Scholarship Created in Memory of George Markey Keating

George Markey Keating

In memory of the longtime Simon & Schuster salesperson and sales director who died in June at age 71, the George Markey Keating Memorial Scholarship Fund has been founded under the aegis of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) and in coordination with the New England Independent Booksellers Association, the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and the support of Keating's widow, Ellen Keating, and former S&S colleagues. The scholarship "will support the professional development of booksellers in the three regions where Keating championed his passion."

As the organizers wrote, "George Markey Keating was a consummate bookman, beloved sales director, master storyteller and friend to all. George's skills as a manager, his good humor, and steady logic, earned him the respect of his reps, his booksellers, his superiors, and the legions of authors whose careers George helped to launch. George spent a lifetime supporting, defending, and promoting literature, and all those who were passionate about providing education and entertainment through the written word.... There is no more fitting memory to George than to support the advancement and professionalism of bookselling."

For more information and to donate, click here.

How Bookstores Are Coping: Surge Uncertainty; Online Holiday Rush

Both Book Passage locations, in Corte Madera and San Francisco, Calif., have reopened to browsing at 20% occupancy, reported owner Elaine Petrocelli. While customers are shopping in person, many are still choosing to do pick-up or to have their books shipped, so more staff members than usual are being asked to focus on shipping and fulfillment. Though customers sometimes have to wait to enter the stores on weekends, the system is working well, Petrocelli said. 

Petrocelli's biggest concern is that stricter Covid restrictions will be imposed due to the infection rates in the Bay Area. She noted that new restrictions always seem to come down on Tuesdays, the same day that new books are released. "We're in a situation where we don't know what happens tomorrow," she added. "On Tuesdays we're excited about new books, but we're always wondering what the new rules will be."

Book Passage at the Ferry Building, San Francisco

Book Passage has had a signed first-edition club for almost 20 years, and for nearly 25 years the store has been doing personalized private book clubs. Both of those programs have been thriving throughout the pandemic, and the store's virtual Conversations with Authors series has been huge.

That series was developed with the help of ExtendedSession, a company owned by people who happen to be Book Passage customers. They walked into the store one day in the early weeks of the pandemic, Petrocelli recalled, and offered to help. The partnership has grown over the past nine months, and the events have led to many book sales and contributions to the store.

Book Passage in Corte Madera

For the holidays, Petrocelli's head buyer bought heavily on books the team expected to do well, but in many cases those initial orders were not quite heavy enough. The store has sold through on some major titles, and Petrocelli doubts they'll be able to get more in before Christmas. Petrocelli and her team are trying their best to recommend alternatives, but it is frustrating as "customers are used to getting what they want from Book Passage."

The store encouraged customers to shop early for the holidays, and Petrocelli remarked that a lot of people did so. Now, though, the Book Passage team has increasingly been noticing that the people who bought holiday gifts in October and November are coming back for more. They're happy to see returning shoppers, but it is making the holiday season a bit more hectic. 

When it comes to fulfilling online orders, the store has gotten much more efficient, but Petrocelli pointed out that it can get a little tricky when someone orders a copy of A Promised Land or another bestseller that is readily on hand along with a couple of "totally obscure" backlist titles.

While things are extremely busy, Petrocelli continued, the store will "miss being this busy in February." And "as horrible as the competition is, as scary as Covid is," there have been so many "lovely stories" of customers saying "I'm going to do all my holiday shopping with you."


In Riverside, Calif., Cellar Door Books is open for shopping by appointment and a limited number of walk-ins are allowed inside, but owner Linda Sherman-Nurick and her team have kept the doors locked "since this all began." Customers are asked to knock at the door and are allowed in for no more than 20 minutes if they are properly wearing masks. During the summer the store was allowing up to 10 people in at a time, but that has been reduced to five because of the ongoing surge in cases.

Sherman-Nurick reported that the store has been "overwhelmed" by community support. As part of a plan to provide books to underserved communities, the City of Riverside placed several large orders with the store, and there have been other large orders from a variety of groups, as well as "loads of new customers" who now understand the importance of shopping local.

The store's many book clubs have all switched to Zoom, and although Sherman-Nurick and her team miss meeting in person, they will probably continue including Zoom options for their book clubs.

On the subject of holiday ordering, she said she ordered less overall than she normally would, but ordered more copies of the titles in the various holiday catalogs, and "that's seemed to work." The holiday rush has started, she continued, but it's "much more online than before." Thanksgiving weekend and Small Business Saturday were better this year than last year, even though most of the store's sales were online. The store has benefited from things like the Indie Next List, holiday gift guides, ad campaigns encouraging shoppers to support small businesses and authors promoting indie bookstores on their social media.

Sherman-Nurick added that although it "took a while," her team has gotten much better at processing and fulfilling online orders. She called her staff "amazing," and said she's "really impressed" at how quickly booksellers, authors and publishers all adapted to these changes. --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: William Kittredge

William Kittredge, "regarded as one of America's great western writers," died last Friday at age 88, the Oregonian reported.

Among his books were the memoir Hole in the Sky, which won the PEN West Award in 1992 for best nonfiction book of the year, and Who Owns the West?. His essay collections included Owning It All, The Nature of Generosity and Balancing Water: Restoring the Klamath Basin. He also edited The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology, published a novel The Willow Field and co-wrote, under the pen name Owen Rountree, nine novels in the Cord series of Westerns. He published articles in such publications as the Atlantic, Harper's, Esquire and Outside, and for more than 30 years was a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Montana in Missoula.

He won two Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards for Excellence, the Charles Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Robert Kirsch Award from the Los Angeles Times and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Montana Book Festival. He co-produced the movie A River Runs Through It.

Kittredge grew up on a farm in Oregon but spent most of his life in Montana, and wrote at length about farming, nature, the land--and was often critical of traditional farming and ranching practices. In an interview, the Oregonian wrote, Kittredge said, "At one point I wanted to write about the West and the mistakes that were being made and the best example I could use was myself and my family and the mistakes we had made. And because of that I got a reputation of being hard on my family and being hard on ranch people in general. I don't hate cowboys. Most of the grief I've given is to agribusiness ranchers."


Bookshop Wedding: Women & Children First Bookstore

"Hosting this awesome couple's wedding at our bookstore was a much-needed bright spot in an otherwise soul crushing year! Many congrats to Abigail & Jason! We wish you a lifetime of love and good reading," Women & Children First Bookstore, Chicago, Ill., posted on Facebook.

When Abigail and Jason Geller "started dating--after meeting at a mutual friend's party and bonding almost immediately over their love of books--many a date began or ended with a stroll through Women & Children First," the Chicago Tribune wrote. "And when Jason proposed marriage and a pandemic upended their plans for a beachy destination wedding and the couple started brainstorming places to get married that were both meaningful and safe, they settled on an obvious, if unconventional, spot: Women & Children First."

"We read books together," she said. "I just thought it would be so cool to have a wedding surrounded by books."

They e-mailed co-owner Sarah Hollenbeck in September to ask about using the store for an afternoon. "It was kind of the first good news I had in my inbox in 2020," Hollenbeck said. "My initial e-mail to (co-owner) Lynn (Mooney) was something like, 'I really need to say yes to this. We could all use some joy in our lives.' She agreed almost instantaneously."

The couple exchanged vows in the science fiction section, the Tribune noted, "in front of an Octavia Butler display. (They're reading Butler's Dawn together right now.) They were joined by their officiant, a photographer, Hollenbeck and store employee Raven Stubbs, who has decided she would also like to hold her eventual wedding at Women & Children First." Family and friends tuned in via Zoom. "There wasn't a dry eye on the computer," Jason Geller said.

Hollenbeck observed: "It makes me feel hopeful for the future, actually. That this couple is choosing to begin their marriage in this space that's dedicated to literature and social justice and intersectional feminism, that is more than I could ever ask for. It means a ton to Lynn and me--that our mission as a store is aligning with this couple's vision of their future is really beautiful."

Personnel Changes at the University of North Carolina Press

At the University of North Carolina Press:

Peter L. Perez is joining the Press in the newly created position of director of public relations and communications, effective January 1. He was most recently public relations and communications director at the University of California Press. Earlier he was buyer of books and gift categories at Rizzoli Bookstores, The Nature Company, Discovery Channel Store, and Williams-Sonoma, and worked in the sales and marketing departments at Chronicle Books.

Sonya Bonczek is joining the Press as the director of publicity, effective December 15. She was formerly publicity manager at Harvard University Press and earlier worked in the publicity departments at Hachette Book Group and Random House.

Publicity director Gina Mahalek is retiring after 20 years at the Press, which said, "We thank Gina for her many contributions to the Press and wish her the best in her well-deserved retirement."

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular November Books

The two most popular books in November at Reading Group Choices were The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Viking) and Trowbridge Road by Marcella Pixley (Candlewick Press).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Brittany K. Barnett on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Brittany K. Barnett, author of A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom (Crown, $28, 9781984825780).

Today Show: Valorie Burton, author of Let Go of the Guilt: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Take Back Your Joy (Thomas Nelson, $18.99, 9780785220213).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Danielle Kartes, author of My Very First Cookbook: Joyful Recipes to Make Together! (Sourcebooks Explore, $17.99, 9781728214191).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Jenny Slate, author of Little Weirds (Back Bay, $16.99, 9780316485364).

TV: Ring Shout

Skydance Television has acquired the rights to P. Djéli Clark's novella Ring Shout "in a competitive situation," Deadline reported. Kasi Lemmons (Harriet, Eve's Bayou) will be showrunner, as well as write and direct the TV series starring Kiki Layne (The Old Guard, If Beale Street Could Talk). Clark, Lemmons and Layne will also serve as executive producers alongside Marc Evans, Matt Jackson and Skydance Television's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Bill Bost.

Books & Authors

Bad Sex in Fiction Awards Canceled Because 2020

The Bad Sex in Fiction Award, which recognizes "the year’s most outstandingly awful scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel," has been canceled by the Literary Review. After weeks of deliberation, the judges said they felt the public had been subjected to too many bad things this year to justify exposing it to bad sex as well. They warned, however, that the cancellation of the 2020 awards should not be taken as a license to write bad sex.

"With lockdown regulations giving rise to all manner of novel sexual practices, the judges anticipate a rash of entries next year," a spokesperson said. "Authors are reminded that cybersex and other forms of home entertainment fall within the purview of this award. Scenes set in fields, parks or back yards, or indoors with the windows open and fewer than six people present will not be exempt from scrutiny either."

Reading with... Lilliam Rivera

photo: Lilith Ferreira

Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of the young adult novels Dealing in Dreams and The Education of Margot Sanchez. Her work has appeared the Washington Post, the New York Times and Elle. Rivera grew up in the Bronx, N.Y., and lives in Los Angeles; visit her online on Twitter and Instagram. Her recent novel is Never Look Back (Bloomsbury, $18.99), a modern retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in the Bronx.

On your nightstand now:

On my nightstand now is God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx by Desus & Mero. I need something funny to read before going to sleep, and the Bodega Boys are hilarious. I'm also reading the expansive The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, an anthology of poetry edited by Felicia Rose Chavez, José Oliveraz and Willie Perdomo.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved the picture book Babar Visits Another Planet by Laurent de Brunhoff. We had a very worn copy when I was a kid and I think that was my first science fiction book.

Your top five authors:

Jesmyn Ward is, in my opinion, America's voice. No one comes close to her prose. Yuri Herrera explores crossings and Mexico's history in such a unique view. In children's books, you must read Meg Medina, Elana K. Arnold and Renée Watson to see how it's done.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Did anyone ever read the whole book or just the Cliffs Notes, like me?

Book you're an evangelist for:

I am forever talking about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I feel the monster is the world's first teenager desperately craving attention from his father.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Back in the day I was a fashion editor and I was/am obsessed with the designer Alexander McQueen. Savage Beauty is a 2011 exhibition catalogue that I purchased that has a holographic image of the designer morphing into a skull, and I love it so.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents aren't fluent in English so I didn't have to hide any books from them but if I did have to, it would probably have been V.C. Andrews's Flowers in the Attic.

Book that changed your life:

When I read Esmeralda Santiago's memoir When I Was Puerto Rican, I was able to gain insight into the life my parents may have left behind.

Favorite line from a book:

"So foul and fair a day I have not seen." --Macbeth, Shakespeare

Five books you'll never part with:

Julia de Burgos's Song of the Simple Truth, Angie Cruz's Dominicana, Junot Díaz's Drown, Los Bros. Hernandez's comic book Music for Mechanics and S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.

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

I read A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess when I was in high school and I thought it was such a disturbing, wild novel. I loved the slang he made up and the violent dystopian setting.

Book Review

YA Review: In the Shadow of the Moon

In the Shadow of the Moon: America, Russia, and the Hidden History of the Space Race by Amy Cherrix (Balzer + Bray, $17.99 hardcover, 336p., ages 13-up, 9780062888754, February 9, 2021)

Author and bookseller Amy Cherrix's In the Shadow of the Moon is an arresting exploration of the Cold War space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. She focuses on two brilliant, driven engineers, both with unbridled ambitions to send humans into space--and both willing to do anything to achieve the goal.

Wernher von Braun, "the Nazis' genius rocket designer," developed the rocket that would launch the U.S. space program. Because of the V-2's "ability to climb to the edge of outer space.... This weapon of mass destruction also had the potential to be a humanitarian tool of scientific discovery." The knowledge that built the V-2 was also von Braun's escape from prosecution for war crimes and his ticket into the United States--where he would ultimately become an American hero.

When Stalin learned von Braun was in the United States, he worried the U.S. would have the knowledge and resources to attack the U.S.S.R. Stalin contacted Sergei Korolev, a gifted engineer whom Stalin himself had (wrongly) accused of treason. Korolev had survived more than six years in the gulag before Stalin offered him a job working on a rocket that could reach North America.

Both von Braun and Korolev had dreams of creating something greater than military weaponry, and the paranoia and competition of the Cold War provided the perfect atmosphere to take both men's aspirations to the moon. After years of trying unsuccessfully to convince the government, von Braun sold the idea of space travel via the public by claiming "we can not only preserve the peace, but we can take a long step toward uniting mankind." Peace and cooperation sounded perfect to people living in constant fear of nuclear war, "but the truth was that prestige and power were the endgame for both rival governments."

Cherrix (Backyard Bears) presents the race with suspense and intrigue, exposing the skeletons both sides would likely prefer not to acknowledge. She carefully handles some of the more gruesome secrets that made the accomplishments possible (like descriptions of the Nazi labor camps or the use of animals in space travel), mindful of her youth audience. She also presents the engineers with little personal bias, which makes her questions at the conclusion of the author's note an exquisite ending to an exceptional account: "Can good works and world-changing achievements that advance science absolve a person from complicity in horrific crimes? What are the consequences of ignoring history, of burying it, of not retelling it for the next generation?" Cherrix offers the facts; readers are left to render a verdict. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Shelf Talker: Skeletons from both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. are removed from their closets in this factual, gripping account of the rocket engineers who were the driving forces behind the Cold War space race.

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