Shelf Awareness for Thursday, December 10, 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


Denver's Tattered Cover Sold to Investor Group, Becomes Largest Black-Owned U.S. Bookstore

The Tattered Cover, Denver, Colo., one of the best known and most highly regarded independent bookstores in the country, has been sold by Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan to a group of investors headed by two local businesspeople with experience with startups and business management: Kwame Spearman and David Back, who are, respectively, CEO and chairman. The group is called Bended Page LLC and includes "national bookselling and publishing experts," among them former American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher and John Sargent, who is leaving Macmillan Publishers as CEO in January. Because Spearman, who is Black, is the largest investor and CEO, Tattered Cover has become the largest Black-owned bookstore in the U.S. (For more about Spearman and Back, who are longtime friends and entrepreneurs, see following article.)

Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligen

"This is a happy day for Tattered Cover and ensures the future of the store," Vlahos told Shelf Awareness. "It's a really positive thing." He praised Spearman and Back, who both have been fans of the Tattered Cover for many years. He noted that since beginning conversations with Back and Spearman in the spring, he and Gilligan became ever more impressed. "The more we talked, the more we knew it was a good fit," Vlahos said. "They're smart. They're good people. They really care about the city and bookstores." He added that Spearman and Back "really went to school on bookselling" in the past six months, learning about the business, researching different approaches, meeting other booksellers and more.

After graduating from Columbia University as well as Yale Law School and Harvard Business School, Spearman became a consultant at Bain & Company, working in a variety of industries, including retail and consumer companies. After leaving Bain, he worked with B.GOOD Restaurants, with headquarters in Boston, Mass., helping them expand. Then he joined Knotel, which provides flexible office space for companies, as head of expansion & landlord partnerships.

Concerning the store becoming the largest Black-owned bookstore in the U.S., Spearman told Denverite, "Personally, I'm a strong advocate of Black Lives Matter, and one of the things we will ensure is that Tattered Cover is always on the right side of history. The role of an independent bookstore with such a wealth of knowledge and information and community will be pivotal when we're seeing changes in the world. That's something that we're obviously going to monitor. The other thing that I'll say is that we're super-excited about at this point: Tattered Cover is now the largest Black-owned bookstore in the U.S. It's kind of a cool twist of events and something that we obviously hope to add to the dialogue that BLM and some of the other movements have begun."

Back graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, then began an MBA program at Cambridge University's Judge School of Business. But he dropped out after one term when his startup, Zoomcar, a car rental company in India, took off.

Vlahos stressed that the closing of most of Tattered Cover's stores for months because of the pandemic had severely hurt the company financially. There are four Tattered Cover stores in the Denver area, and another is opening next year in Westminster. Tattered Cover was undercapitalized, he continued, and needed an infusion of capital.

He said that the controversy in June about Tattered Cover's statement about Black Lives Matter was "not a factor in the decision to sell." In fact, he continued, while it was a "difficult moment and painful," it turned out to be "an incredible learning moment" that caused him and Gilligan to "reevaluate the business and policies and their approach to everything." He praised Prismatic, the organization that Tattered Cover brought in to help it devise an action plan.

Vlahos struggled recently with a bad case of Covid-19--he was forced to stay in isolation for 20 days and hospitalized for five days. He is still weakened and easily winded, but getting better every day, he said. Thankfully, Gilligan and their children did not come down with Covid-19.

Vlahos will stay on at Tattered Cover through June, helping with the transition and the opening of two new locations--the one in Westminster and the move of the lower downtown store to McGregor Square. Other than that, he said, he and Gilligan know for sure they'd like to stay in Colorado but have no definite plans for the future.

Joyce Meskis addressed the crowd at the kick-off party for Winter Institute 2016 at the Tattered Cover.

Vlahos and Gilligan bought the store from longtime owner Joyce Meskis in 2015. He was formerly with the ABA for 20 years, much of that time as chief operating officer, and then was executive director of the Book Industry Study Group. He is also a popular YA author whose work includes The Scar Boys, Hard Wired and Life in a Fishbowl. Gilligan also worked at the ABA, for 10 years, and was director of meetings and events.

Reaction to the purchase was positive. Heather Duncan, executive director of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association, said that MPIBA is "delighted to welcome the Tattered Cover Book Store's new owners, Kwame Spearman and David Back, to our bookselling family. And we wish our friends and the store's previous owners, Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan, the very best as they move on to their next adventure. As a former longtime employee of the Tattered Cover, I am excited to see the talent and enthusiasm the new owners bring to the store. The Tattered Cover's almost 50-year history as a leader in the world of independent bookselling continues."

And Oren Teicher commented: "I've been working with Kwame and David on this for several months, and could not be more thrilled that it's all come together. Kwame and David represent a critically important next chapter for indie bookselling, and, I can say without qualification that their energy, enthusiasm, and business expertise is extraordinary. Whatever challenges lie ahead, their decision at this time to step up and buy the Tattered Cover gives me enormous confidence in the future of indie bookselling."

Founded in 1971, the Tattered Cover was a small, struggling 950-square-foot store when Joyce Meskis purchased it in 1974. Over the years, despite boom and bust cycles in Colorado, the growth of chain superstores and the advent of e-commerce and digital books, as well as the Great Recession, Meskis built Tattered Cover into a store of international renown.

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

Tattered Cover's New Owners Listening and Learning

In March, as the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S. and states began to shutdown one after another, Denver, Colo., native and Zoomcar founder David Back recognized that this was going to be a "long, difficult time for small businesses." When he thought about the small businesses in Colorado he was most passionate about, one always jumped to mind: Tattered Cover Book Store, where he worked as a cashier when he was 15.

"When I was behind the cash register," Back recalled, he would daydream about what he would do if he owned the bookstore. "That daydream has stuck in the back of my mind for 20 years."

He reached out to owners Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan, asking how they were faring and whether the store needed help. The conversation "evolved from there," and when he realized that buying the store was a possibility, he contacted Kwame Spearman, a fellow Denver native, the head of expansion & landlord partnerships for Knotel and a friend since high school.

Kwame Spearman

Spearman and Back first met when they were on speech and debate teams at rival Denver high schools. They remained friends over the past 20 years, often talking about business ideas and "a lot about Colorado." Back figured that between his love of books, fondness for Colorado and experience with bricks-and-mortar businesses, Spearman would be a perfect fit.

"When David first called me and asked to talk about purchasing a bookstore in the middle of a pandemic, I thought he was pretty crazy," admitted Spearman. But Back reminded him that this "wasn't just a bookstore, this was Tattered Cover," and as Spearman did his due diligence on independent bookstores he was "so surprised and happy" to see that in the years immediately prior to the pandemic, independent bookstores were doing very well. Plenty of bookstores were doing innovative things, and he saw there was a path for Tattered Cover to do things similarly.

"I feel strongly that retail is not going away," Spearman said, explaining that he feels it needs to evolve. That evolution will involve heavily curated products and goods for customers and "feel a lot more like consumer services." Independent bookstores, he noted, "are so well equipped to do well in that environment."

David Back

Back said he, too, was pleasantly surprised to see how many indies were thriving prior to the pandemic. When he first reached out to Vlahos and Gilligan, he thought he would have to "save Tattered Cover" and perhaps even "reinvent the bookstore." He quickly realized that they wouldn't need to reinvent the bookstore--they would simply have to "listen and learn" from all the innovative booksellers around the country.

Back added that he feels very lucky that he reached out to Spearman when he did. "This is a 20-year dream realized."

On the subject of the indie community, Spearman remarked that he's "never seen a more generous and collaborative group of entrepreneurs." It was fascinating, he continued, to see such a collaborative group consisting of so many independently successful people.

Back and Spearman have assembled an ownership group that besides Oren Teicher, formerly of the ABA, and Macmillan's John Sargent, includes Dick Monfort, chairman and CEO of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, philanthropist Margie Gart, Kent Thiry, former chairman and CEO of DaVita, and Brad Feld, managing director of Foundry Group.

Spearman reported that they've already learned quite a bit from Sargent and Teicher, particularly that "the stronger your relationship is with your publishers, the better your business is," and Back pointed out that Nicole Magistro, the former owner of the Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards, Colo., has also been "extremely helpful" throughout the entire process.

When asked about their plans for the store, Spearman answered that the biggest thing will be expanding on what Tattered Cover "already does super well." He and Back plan to make the bookstore "synonymous with the community around us," and create an environment where "everyone in Colorado can find the perfect item for them." The first steps will be listening closely to the community, finding out what they want and making sure that all authors and voices are represented.

Another major area of focus will be e-commerce. Spearman explained that while they know they can't compete with Amazon directly, he and Back see opportunities to replicate the curation and "experiential side" of indie bookstores online.

In the immediate future, Back and Spearman will be jumping in and learning the ropes, with the help of Vlahos. Said Spearman: "We are in the show right now." --Alex Mutter

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

Frankfurt Book Fair New York Closing After 22 Years

The Frankfurt Book Fair's office in New York, first known as the German Book Office when it opened 22 years ago and then called Frankfurt Book Fair New York, is closing at the end of the year, a casualty of budget cuts faced by the fair because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Publishing Perspectives reported. The fair will continue conducting cultural projects to promote German literature in the U.S. in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut in New York City.

Thomas Minkus

As a result of the closing, the office's managing director, Thomas Minkus, is leaving, and Riky Stock, who has been an integral part of the operation since joining in 2002, is becoming managing director of NorthSouth Books, the U.S. division of NordSüd Verlag, effective January 1.

Publishing Perspectives, which has been published from the New York office, will continue with Hannah Johnson as publisher and Porter Anderson as editor-in-chief.

Frankfurt Book Fair president and CEO Juergen Boos thanked Minkus for having "led a strong team at the New York office, and he has played a vital role in managing our business in the English-speaking world. As the managing director of IPR License, Thomas has played a pivotal role in growing this business and forming strong and important partnerships in China, USA, and Europe."

Minkus thanked "the team in New York: Michelle Claussen, Hannah Johnson, Raquel Plitt, and Riky Stock for their achievements and outstanding service and commitment over many years. It was a privilege to work with all of them. I would like to wish them good luck and best wishes for their future endeavors." He may be reached via e-mail.

Riky Stock said about NorthSouth: "I have always admired their great list of German, international, and American writers and illustrators and I am looking forward to this new challenge. After 18-plus years at the German Book Office/Frankfurt Book Fair New York, this is a big step and I am going to miss the people I had the pleasure of getting to know over the years and the exciting projects I was involved in."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Fulfilling Orders 'Almost 24 Hours'; Nearly 100% Online

In Scottsdale, Ariz., The Poisoned Pen Bookstore is technically open for appointment shopping, owner Barbara Peters reported, but that "hasn't even been a blip." Virtually all of the store's business is online, mostly with customers who are not even in the state of Arizona, and Peters explained that the store's business model has been that way for a long time. Thanks to the way the store grew organically over the years, Peters and her team were, luckily, "in good shape for the pandemic."

"I feel really fortunate," she continued. "We had the right business model for the moment."

The store closed to in-person browsing in April, with Peters noting that she has a "lot of senior staff." In September the store reopened for browsing, but she and her team found that their "regular customers just didn't care." The only people coming in were tourists or people with time to kill in Scottsdale. When cases began to surge later in the fall, the store shifted to appointment shopping only, but regular customers are still almost exclusively buying online or over the phone.

The Poisoned Pen has always had to balance being a physical store and an online fulfillment center, and Peters pointed out that being closed to browsing has actually alleviated some inventory management concerns, as the team is no longer worried about a customer possibly coming by and purchasing a book that is still listed on the website. Being closed to browsing also gave the team a chance to remodel part of the store, as well as upgrade all of its sound equipment and buy new computers. Peters also took the opportunity to do a full inventory, which they hadn't done in "ages," and found some "wild discrepancies."

Diana Gabaldon signing at Poisoned Pen.

Throughout the pandemic, attendance for the store's virtual events has been "remarkable." All of the store's events are free, and Peters said attendance usually hovers around the 1,000 viewer mark. A recent event with James Patterson and Lee Child drew around 3,000, but the store's biggest online event by far was an event with Diana Gabaldon that drew nearly 50,000 viewers. She noted that in all of theses cases, the high attendance numbers are being driven by the authors' own social media presence and not the store's marketing. She added that attendance plummeted the one time the store tried doing a ticketed virtual event.

The store's bestselling title recently has been Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other (Quercus) by Graham McTavish and Sam Heughan. Peters explained that Heughan and McTavish star in the Outlander Starz series, and Gabaldon wrote a foreword to the book. The store has copies signed by Gabaldon, and the Poisoned Pen is approaching 5,000 copies sold.

Those sales have been a "blessing," Peters said, but the high volume of Clanland orders on top of regular holiday orders is "really weighing" the store down. With the Christmas deadline coming up for USPS, people are working "almost 24 hours right now" trying to get as many books out the door as possible.


Kathy Burnette, owner of Brain Lair Books in South Bend, Ind., reported that she has not reopened for browsing. She's continued to do special orders and pick-up, and she has allowed a few families to come in and shop on a limited basis. 

Burnette added that her lease is up on December 31, and she has decided not to renew it. She explained that given the high probability of another lockdown, how slow winters are usually, and the fact that the store is almost 100% online anyway, it was the right choice. She's already partnered with four local businesses and will have a bookcase in each one. Half of the selection will be titles curated for that particular location, and the other half will be made of titles that Burnette wants to promote. The locations will be in a local co-op, a coffee shop, a children's museum and a cheese and deli shop.

On the subject of bright spots throughout the pandemic, Burnette said she's done some events directed toward schools that have gone well. With virtual events, she's been able to reach more schools than normal. Each school gets a link to send to families to buy the authors' books, and books are shipped directly to the families. Using IndieCommerce also makes it easier to track school sales.

When it came to holiday buying, Burnette picked a few titles that she really wanted to sell, along with a few cookbooks that looked good. She also went in heavily on "anything that had Kamala, Ruth, Barack, Pete and Chasten," as well as diverse children's books, "since that's our brand." 

The holiday rush started in mid-November, and so far the store's top sellers include A Promised Land, The Book on Pie by Erin Jeanne McDowell, In Bibi's Kitchen by Hawa Hassan, I Have Something to Tell You by Chasten Buttigieg, and Class Act by Jerry Craft. --Alex Mutter

Penguin Hotline Is Back for the Holiday Season

With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, Penguin Random House is again offering the Penguin Hotline, a gift-giving book recommendation service that will run through December 16. The hotline instantly connects gift givers to PRH volunteers ready to help them find the right read for anyone on their gift lists.

As in the past, hundreds of PRH employees--from all facets of the publishing process--will be on call to help recommend books. The hotline is a "publisher-agnostic effort," offering recommendations from various publishing houses.

This year, the Penguin Hotline is partnering with We Need Diverse Books to promote stories that reflect the lives of all readers. For every consumer request the Penguin Hotline receives, PRH will donate $2 to WNDB, up to a maximum of $10,000. In addition, the WNDB team will be sharing their own book recommendation lists with the Penguin Hotline volunteers for inspiration as they answer tickets.

To receive a recommendation, users can write in on the hotline's website and provide information about the person receiving the book, including favorite titles, TV shows, movies, magazines, etc. Within a few days, the user receives a personal note from a PRH volunteer with custom book recommendations.

Some lucky users may even receive a recommendation from a bestselling PRH author. A few randomly selected "golden tickets" will be answered by special author volunteers including Jasmine Guillory, Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sigrid Nunez, Ace Atkins, Lisa Scottoline, Emma Straub and Simon Sinek.


Best of Miami: Books & Books, The Literary Life With Mitchell Kaplan

Mitchell Kaplan

Congratulations to Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, with stores in South Florida and the Cayman Islands, for being recognized in two categories by Miami New Times for its Best of Miami 2020 awards.

Books & Books was named Best Bookstore, with New Times noting: "In a year as unpredictable as this one, we often long for the comfort of familiarity, and at a time when travel is extremely limited, we might turn to books to help us journey to faraway places. Miami's favorite bookstore didn't leave us hanging on either front when everything shut down. If there was any doubt of Books & Books' status as a local staple, the bookstore proved itself more than ever during the quarantine, continuing to fulfill orders online so we could fill our lonely days with reading, and keeping us connected to the literary community through its Virtual Author Series, which featured interviews with everyone from Carl Hiaasen to Edwidge Danticat to Madeleine Albright. Now that stores have reopened, we can once again enjoy the flagship location and all of its offshoots in person. Plus, the outdoor (and social distance-friendly) café at the store's center in Coral Gables is still one of the best places to grab coffee or lunch while you dive into one of your new books."

In addition, Kaplan topped the Best Podcast category for The Literary Life With Mitchell Kaplan. "In his welcoming baritone voice, Mitchell Kaplan explores the human condition and societal woes of the written word during his weekly podcast, The Literary Life With Mitchell Kaplan, which debuted in 2018 and is now more than 100 episodes in. Kaplan... releases a new episode every Friday comprising a good-natured discussion with writers, authors, and anyone with a story to tell."

Personnel Changes at Macmillan Publishers

At Macmillan Publishers:

Dan Schwartz is promoted to the newly created role of chief financial officer, U.S. trade & shared services.

Clare O'Rourke is promoted to executive v-p, finance & accounting.

Cameron Ackroyd is joining Macmillan as senior v-p, trade finance, overseeing the trade finance and data science teams, effective January 4. He comes from Penguin Random House, where for the past seven years he directed the business management and finance group for the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: James Patterson on Good Morning America

NPR's Here & Now: Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, authors of Black Futures (One World, $40, 9780399181139).

Good Morning America: James Patterson, co-author of The Last Days of John Lennon (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316429061).

This Weekend on Book TV: The Texas Book Festival

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, December 12
1 p.m. A discussion on the 2020 election with Mychal Denzel Smith, author of Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream (Bold Type Books, $26, 9781568588735), and Issac Bailey, author of Why Didn't We Riot: A Black Man in Trumpland (Other Press, $21.99, 9781635420289), at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Tex.

2:33 p.m. Robert Draper, author of To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq (Penguin Press, $30, 9780525561040), at the Texas Book Festival.

4:55 p.m. Derek W. Black, author of Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy (PublicAffairs, $28, 9781541788442).

7 p.m. Seamus Hughes, co-author of Homegrown: ISIS in America (I.B. Tauris, $27, 9781788314855). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

8 p.m. A discussion on pandemics with Debora MacKenzie, author of COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One (Hachette Books, $27, 9780306924248), and Muhammad H. Zaman, author of Biography of Resistance: The Epic Battle Between People and Pathogens (Harper Wave, $28.99, 9780062862976), at the Texas Book Festival.

8:50 p.m. Neal Gabler, author of Catching the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932-1975 (Crown, $40, 9780307405449). (Re-airs Monday at 1:50 a.m.)

10 p.m. Christa Parravani, author of Loved and Wanted: A Memoir of Choice, Children, and Womanhood (Holt, $26.99, 9781250756848). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Sinan Aral, author of The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health--and How We Must Adapt (Currency, $28, 9780525574514). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:25 p.m.)

Sunday, December 13
9 a.m. A discussion on race and caste in America with Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Random House, $32, 9780593230251), and Michael Eric Dyson, author of Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250276759), at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

11 a.m. Jennifer Palmieri, author of She Proclaims: Our Declaration of Independence from a Man's World (Grand Central, $26, 9781538750650).

1:50 p.m. A discussion on the ACLU and the 19th Amendment with Ellis Cose, author of Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU's 100-Year Fight for Rights in America (The New Press, $29.99, 9781620973837), and Kimberly Hamlin, author of Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener (Norton, $28.95, 9781324004974), at the Texas Book Festival.

2:36 p.m. Jessica Luther and Kavitha Davidson, authors of Loving Sports When They Don't Love You Back: Dilemmas of the Modern Fan (University of Texas Press, $26.95, 9781477313138), at the Texas Book Festival.

5:50 p.m. Guy Raz, author of How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780358216766), at the Boston Book Festival.

7:55 p.m. Gustavus Stadler, author of Woody Guthrie: An Intimate Life (Beacon Press, $26.95, 9780807018910), at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Mo.

11 p.m. Alice Baumgartner, author of South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War (Basic Books, $32, 9781541617780).

Books & Authors

Awards: Hans Christian Andersen, Joyce Carol Oates Longlists

Some 62 authors and illustrators from 33 countries have been nominated for the 2022 Hans Christian Andersen Awards, which are given every other year to "an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important and lasting contribution to literature for young people" and are sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. The shortlist will be announced in January 2022 and the winners at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in March or April 2022. See the longlist here.


A longlist has been released for the $50,000 2021 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, recognizing mid-career authors in fiction. The award is administered by the Simpson Project, a collaboration of the Lafayette Library & Learning Center Foundation and the University of California, Berkeley, English Department. Shortlist finalists will be announced in early March 2021 and winner in early April. To see the longlist, click here.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, December 15:

NYPD Red 6 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp (Grand Central, $29, 9781538703014) is the sixth thriller with Detective Kylie MacDonald and Detective Zach Jordan.

The Berlin Shadow: Living with the Ghosts of the Kindertransport by Jonathan Lichtenstein (Little, Brown Spark, $28, 9780316541015) is an account of how the author's father, a child refugee from the Nazis, and his family were affected by the Holocaust.

Happy Habits: 50 Science-Backed Rituals to Adopt (or Stop) to Boost Health and Happiness by Karen Salmansohn (Ten Speed Press, $14.99, 9781984858221) explores ways to make or break habits.

This Is How We Fly by Anna Meriano (Philomel Books, $18.99, 9780593116876) is a loose YA retelling of Cinderella featuring a vegan feminist who joins a local Quidditch league.

Mary Engelbreit's Little Book of Love by Mary Engelbreit (HarperCollins, $12.99, 9780063017221) is a book of Valentine's Day quotes for young readers.

Garfield Goes Hog Wild: His 70th Book by Jim Davis (Ballantine, $15, 9780593156421).

This Cowboy of Mine by R.C. Ryan (Forever, $7.99, 9781538716885).

King of Nowhere by W. Maxwell Prince, illus. by Tyler Jenkins (BOOM! Studios, $19.99, 9781684156139).

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:

The Orchard: A Novel by David Hopen (Ecco, $27.99, 9780062974747). "Evocative of both Donna Tartt and Chaim Potok, The Orchard boldly dives into the depth of teen drama and Jewish philosophy and emerges with a heartfelt story of transformation. Ari is entering his senior year when his parents decide to move from their Orthodox Brooklyn community to a more modern enclave in suburban Miami. His surprising acceptance into an elite clique at his new school has him grappling with questions regarding pleasure and spirituality as he attempts to find his way with his new peers. Straying from the teachings of his youth, he is drawn to investigate his religion in increasingly surprising ways, with unforeseen consequences. An impressive debut!" --Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.

Nights When Nothing Happened: A Novel by Simon Han (Riverhead, $26, 9780593086056). "Most anyone who grows up in a suburb knows these neighborhoods are not always what they purport to be. Simon Han, in his dazzling debut, blows the curtains wide open on the actual lives a onetime model home might conceal. Deftly shifting time frames and points of view, he gives a piercing, often funny, and deeply moving account of a Chinese family's struggle to settle into the lives they think they should be living. It's a coming of age for all of them, each in their own way and time. Far from nothing happening, so much does." --Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father's War and What Remains by Ariana Neumann (Scribner, $18, 9781982106386). "This book is beautiful, intimate, breathtaking, and heartbreaking. It reads like a novel and yet gives a better sense of what was happening to Jewish families during the Holocaust than any history book I've read. I feel so invested in the Neumann family and their friends, as if I know them personally. More than anything, my takeaway from this book is the love and hope that was so clearly poured into it." --Gabrielle Belisle, An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Trouble With Penguins by Rebecca Jordan-Glum (Roaring Brook Press, $18.99, 9781250208484). "A roasted marshmallow opens this delightful new friendship story. Atmospheric illustrations beautifully complement this warm-hearted story of community and sharing. Perfect for fans of marshmallows, penguins, and, of course, best friends!" --Jessica Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, Calif.

For Ages 9 to 12
Fantastic Tales of Nothing by Alejandra Green and Fanny Rodriguez (Katherine Tegen, $22.99, 9780062839480) "Despite its name, Nothing is a land filled with magic, ancient legends, shapeshifters, and one not-so-ordinary human named Nathan who is about to embark on a quest to save everything (err…Nothing). Alejandra Green and Fanny Rodriguez bring their respective animation and video game design experience to this middle-grade fantasy filled with humor, mystery, adventure, and plenty of action! This dynamic start to a new graphic novel series will appeal to fans of the Amulet and Estranged book series." --Kinsey Forman, High Five Books, Florence, Mass.

For Teen Readers
The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White (Delacorte, $18.99, 9780525581710). "I loved this sequel to The Guinevere Deception. Be prepared for answers, new relationships, and a light shining on Guinevere's past that makes her question everything she thought was the truth. What are these dreams that don't seem to be her own? Why can't she stop thinking about Mordred? Does she belong as Queen of Camelot? All this and more awaits you in The Camelot Betrayal." --Kalli King, Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself

A Lie Someone Told You about Yourself by Peter Ho Davies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 hardcover, 240p., 9780544277717, January 5, 2021)

Mention the word abortion to most Americans, and it will create an immediate mental association with the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. Peter Ho Davies's novel A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself takes a more intimate look at the subject in this perceptive story of life in the aftermath of that choice and the tensions that fray the ties binding wife and husband in a loving relationship.

The novel opens with an unnamed couple--he's a professor of creative writing, she's an editor--facing the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy involving a baby who may be suffering from the rare genetic disorder mosaicism, where some of the child's cells have too many chromosomes. After opting for an abortion without the benefit of definitive test results, the pair conceive another child, an event that transmutes them into characters Davies (The Fortunes) refers to thereafter only as "the mother, the father and the boy."

With insight and often acerbic wit, the balance of this brief novel, narrated from the father's point of view, follows the family through the early years of the son's childhood, made more challenging by the suspicion that the boy lies somewhere on the autism spectrum, but who turns out to be "twice exceptional." Both parents grapple with guilt, regret and shame, the last of those emotions described in the quote from Anaïs Nin that provides the book's title. The father's attempt to seek expiation for his part in the abortion decision leads him to volunteer as an escort at an abortion clinic, a decision that produces some of the novel's most poignant and darkly funny moments.

Davies's take on the highs and lows of marital life--summed up in the observation that "Love was a joke, shared"--is masterly. "But is it self-deprecation or selfishness?" the father wonders, when he and his wife vie for the title of "sparent," their term for the non-essential parent. He worries about his fascination with Internet pornography, ponders an affair and then muses that marriage, with its sometimes awkward intimacy, "is a terrible preparation for infidelity." Davies's facility with the quotidian details of child rearing is impressive, as when he describes his son returning from school with "valentines and black eyes," with "homework and paperwork." The only things he doesn't come home with are "both gloves." A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself is a bittersweet story, a tender and touching novel that's unafraid to wear its heart, and its humor, on its sleeve. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: A father's wistful reflections on life in the aftermath of abortion and as a fledgling parent.

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