Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 21, 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


International Update: Harsher Covid Restrictions Hit England, Scotland, Wales

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Saturday that the planned brief relaxation of Covid-19 rules for Christmas had been scrapped after scientists said a new coronavirus variant was spreading more rapidly, the Associated Press reported. Tier Four restrictions--similar to England's second national lockdown--will apply in all areas of London as well as much of southern England. Indie booksellers, who are still permitted to operate click-and-collect service, were reacting quickly to the news on social media:

Clapham Books, London: "So, Tier 4... We're here for collections, 10am-4pm, every day up to and including Christmas Eve. You can also still place orders by phone or email. Thank you for all, again, for your support and kindness during all these changes and uncertainties."

Pigeon Books, Southsea: "Just as we were getting used to having people in the shop again... unfortunately due to the Tier 4 announcement we're back to click & collect and local (PO1-PO5) deliveries only for the next week. We'll be in the shop from 10am-3pm Monday to Thursday--and then we'll be closing the doors until the new year.... Thank you all once again for coming on this very frustrating journey with us--you're all amazing!"

Dulwich Books, West Dulwich: "Here we go again.... we have loads of books in stock and there is still time for your present buying, click & collect."

Moon Lane Books & Toys, Ramsgate: "We are yet again filled with sadness to let you know that we will be closing the shop from Sunday 20th December until further notice as Kent is put into Tier 4 COVID-19 restrictions from midnight tonight. We want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for supporting us the way you have so enthusiastically and loyally whether booking online shopping slots or using our new online shop in partnership with UK (which has been a lifeline for us). Stay safe and we look forward very much to seeing you in the New Year 2021!!"

Stanfords Travel, London: "As we are in Tier 4, our store is now closed, however our Click and Collect service is still available. Also, our cafe is open for take away (for today at least). We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all our wonderful customers for your support during this time. We've been through a lot during our 153 year history but nothing quite like this."

Round Table Books, London: "We had posters. We had billboards. We had signed books. We had shelves stacked. We did everything we could. We're so sorry we have to close--the safety of customers and our booksellers is most important. This has been the toughest year--WE'LL BE BACK. ** SEE YOU IN 2021! **"


Scotland's planned five-day relaxation of Covid restrictions over the holidays period has been cut back to just Christmas Day, and a Wales-wide lockdown "has been brought forward to Sunday with festive plans canceled for all but Christmas Day," the BBC reported. Indies were recalibrating in those countries, too:

Mainstreet Trading Company, St. Boswells, Scotland: "Well then, here we go again. Like all of you, we are still processing the news from last night about the new lockdown. We will let you know as soon as we know exactly what we will be able to do from the 26th onwards, but for now, we can assure you that our online store will remain open and we will continue to send out gift boxes and everything else.... Please keep your distance, sanitise, be kind to each other, shop small if you can, and keep your chins up. We'll get through this together."

Browsers Bookshop, Porthmadog, Wales: "So there we have it, lockdown number 3 for Wales. I hope you have all recovered from last night's announcement. I would like to outline what happens next at Browsers. Firstly though, I would like to extend a H U G E thank you to each and every one of you who supported us in our 13 days of trading. Thank you Thank you Thank you! The amount of love shown by the majority of shoppers was humbling, the congratulations, the good wishes, the cards and flowers we received, and the cakes from those welcoming us back left us speechless. Did I say thank you already?"


Luca Ambrogio Santini, LibriSottoCasa

In Italy, Luca Ambrogio Santini "is considered to be something of a knight-errant as he cycles around parts of Milan on his red cargo bike delivering books to people's homes, so much so he is affectionately called the 'Don Quixote of booksellers,' " the Guardian reported.

"Quixote went to fight against the windmills," Santini said. "My windmills are the online retailers from those monster multinationals... which for us independent booksellers are unnameable.... Obviously, Amazon.... I practically do what they do, and often I'm faster than them."

Under the name LibriSottoCasa (books on the doorstep), Santini "fits his wares into a two-square-meter [22-square-foot] box on the front of his bike before delivering them to customers in the southern districts of Milan.... [T]he pandemic has proved to be a bit of a boon, as people spending more time at home rediscover the joy of books"

"Some customers have counted how many books they've read since March, and the numbers are significant," said Santini, who owned a bookshop in Milan's Largo Mahler for 20 years before being forced to close in 2013. He launched his bike bookshop in 2015. "I have always cycled around the city and so decided to try it out."

He added that the pandemic has inspired people to realize the importance of independent local businesses: "There is a specific solidarity that is being shown. The situation is still not easy for many but the personal connection has helped people feel united with us."


Lightning Source UK Ltd. has been renamed Ingram Content Group UK Ltd., or, for marketing purposes, Ingram Content Group. The company said the change "helps create a more consistent global approach to our brand and brings together Ingram Content Group's publisher and retail services in the U.K. into one named entity. There will not be any changes to operations or services."

"Ingram Content Group is committed to supporting the book industry and to our mission of getting more books to more readers as quickly as possible," said Shawn Morin, Ingram Content Group president and CEO. "Aligning our brand as Ingram Content Group creates consistency and better reflects the global scope of our services and reach of our business." --Robert Gray

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: Sales Bump; Firm Footing

In University City, Mo., EyeSeeMe African American Children's Bookstore "took a long time" to reopen for browsing, reported Jeffrey Blair, who co-owns the store with his wife, Pamela Blair. Blair noted that as a children's bookstore, EyeSeeMe gets a lot of grandparents coming in to shop for their grandchildren, and Blair and his team wanted to be "super cautious with that."

Blair and the team allow no more than 10 people in the store at a time; Blair explained that while the official mandates have "gone up and down," that's the number that they feel comfortable with. The store is very strict about masks and customers are asked to use hand sanitizer when they enter. There are partitions at the register and contactless credit card machines.

Prior to reopening for browsing in September, the store had pivoted to being an almost entirely online bookstore, with curbside service available. Blair said his customers have responded so well to curbside that it will likely stick around long after things go back to normal. He also expects to keep streaming events virtually even when customers are able to gather in the store. He added that the store had an online subscription service prior to the pandemic, but in the months since the pandemic started it has "exploded."

After protests erupted around the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, EyeSeeMe saw an "exponential increase" in sales of books on race and racism for both children and adults. Practically overnight the store went from contemplating closing its doors to hiring more employees to keep up with demand. For children, popular titles include A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara and We All Belong by Nathalie Goss and Alex Goss, while major adult titles include How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

While the circumstances were tragic, Blair continued, the silver lining was that people really seemed to dedicate themselves to self-education. He pointed out that while sales of those titles have slowed since peaking over the summer, they are still moving at a high rate.

EyeSeeMe was unexpectedly busy in November after the store was featured on a CBS Sunday Morning segment. Prior to the segment airing, Blair and his colleagues "thought we'd get some sales," but they were blown away by the support. In addition to book sales, the store received letters, postcards and even checks in the mail. 

Blair remarked: "Seeing the community come out and support our mission is so touching. We're very thankful to our customers for being great supporters. They're making a conscious effort to support indies."

The sales bump that followed the CBS segment "rolled us right into Black Friday, and right into the holidays," Blair said. Most of the store's business is online, and some popular titles include antiracist books as well as Barack Obama's A Promised Land and Marcus Samuelsson's The Red Rooster Cookbook.


Pete Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Calif., reported that the store's web orders have "exploded." In-store capacity is limited to 20% of maximum, so Mulvihill and his team have hired a "temporary front door monitor" to welcome customers, keep track of occupancy and enforce mask and hand sanitizer rules.

Mulvihill noted that the recent round of Covid-19 restrictions in California had some impact, "but I think we'd be facing the same overall scenario" even without those mandates. While they haven't radically changed anything, they've pushed more shoppers online.

On the subject of holiday buying, Mulvihill said Green Apple went big on the titles they thought would be major, and he and the team "don't regret it." Despite ordering big, the store is still out of a few big titles, but their aggressive buying has led to a few instances where Green Apple has books that other San Francisco bookstores ( and Amazon) don't, such as Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton and Robert K. Oermann. The store encouraged customers to shop early, and Mulvihill said he thinks it worked, but this coming week will "reveal whether we moved sales earlier in the month or are just busier for real."

Some of the store's bestselling titles since November 15 include A Promised Land, Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages Through the Unknown City by Gary Kamiya, Breath by James Nestor and Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.

The three Green Apple locations are seeing healthy in-store traffic despite limitations, but not quite at normal levels. Web sales are making up a lot of the difference, but during the weekend before Christmas, the Clement store normally rings up more than 1,000 transactions per day. That won't be possible, of course, and Mulvihill assumes the store will slip further behind normal. Still, he added, the store is on "relatively firm footing," despite the "sh*tstorm that was 2020." --Alex Mutter

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

Riky Stock Named Managing Director of NorthSouth Books

Riky Stock
(credit: Chris Lobue Photography)

Riky Stock is joining children's book publisher NorthSouth Books as managing director, effective January 1. Her main duties will include strengthening transatlantic ties to the company's head office in Zurich, Switzerland, and developing a more international approach to marketing and communications. In addition, NorthSouth will continue to develop and expand its international roster of authors and illustrators, including many in the U.S. For more than 18 years, Stock worked at the German Book Office/Frankfurt Book Fair New York, which is closing at the end of the year.

Heather Lennon continues at NorthSouth as sales director and managing international markets and licensing in the U.S. Beth Terrill continues as acquiring editor, working closely with Stock to identify new projects.

NordSüd publisher Herwig Bitsche commented: "I've known Riky for many years and value her as a committed promoter of German children's books in the U.S. What we experienced this past year has given us renewed energy and optimism as we look to the future and how we can strengthen our position in the U.S. market. I'm very much looking forward to working with Riky and writing a new chapter for NorthSouth."

Stock said, "I've been a fan of NorthSouth's high-quality picture books for many years. Now I'm looking forward to joining the teams in the U.S. and Switzerland in bringing the best international artists into our market, to promote them and help them grow."

Kids' Next List E-Newsletter Delivered

Last Thursday, the first part of the American Booksellers Association's Winter Kids' Next List was delivered to more than half a million of the country's best book readers, going to 613,150 customers of 175 participating bookstores. The next Kids' Next List, the second issue of the Winter catalog, will be published Thursday, January 21, 2021.

The e-newsletter, powered by Shelf Awareness, features Winter Kids' Next List titles, with bookseller quotes and "buy now" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on the sending store's website. The newsletter, which is branded with each store's logo, also includes an interview (from Bookselling This Week) with the author or authors whose book was chosen by booksellers as the top Kids' Next List pick, in this case Karen M. McManus, author of The Cousins (Delacorte Press).

For a sample of the newsletter, see this one from Alcott's Attic Bookstore, Parker, Colo.


Snow Day, Bookseller Style: Northshire Bookstore

"We are open. Just the old school crew this morning. Barbara to the rescue," Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., posted on Facebook last Thursday in the wake of a major snowstorm. Masked up and ready for customers are co-owner Chris Morrow and his mother, Northshire co-founder Barbara Morrow.

Full Circle Bookstore's 'Unsullied' & 'Befouled' Pens

"Among the measures we're taking to keep shopping safe, we're disinfecting pens whenever they're used. We're taking the opportunity to flex our vocabulary," Full Circle Bookstore, Oklahoma City, Okla., noted in sharing a photo of the store's pen containers, one marked "Unsullied (Clean)" and the other "Befouled."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael J. Fox on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Michael J. Fox, author of No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality (Flatiron Books, $27.99, 9781250265616).

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: David Sedaris, author of The Best of Me (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316628242).

Late Late Show with James Corden repeat: John Lithgow, author of Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown: Verses for a Despotic Age (Chronicle, $22.95, 9781797209463).

Drew Barrymore Show repeat: Henry Winkler, co-author of Lights, Camera, Danger! (Amulet Books, $14.99, 9781419740992).

The Talk repeat: Jay Shetty, author of Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781982134488).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: 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 Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of The Water Dancer: A Novel (One World, $18, 9780399590610).

The Talk repeat: D.L. Hughley, co-author of Surrender, White People!: Our Unconditional Terms for Peace (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062953704).

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Cazzie David, author of No One Asked for This: Essays (Mariner, $17.99, 9780358197027).

Late Late Show with James Corden repeat: Jamie Oliver, author of 7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week (Flatiron Books, $35, 9781250787576).

TV: Burn; The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

Bad Robot has optioned the rights to Burn by Patrick Ness and is developing it as a TV project in association with Warner Bros. Television. Deadline reported that J.J. Abrams will exec produce alongside Bad Robot's head of television Ben Stephenson and executive v-p of Television Rachel Rusch Rich.


Apple TV+ has ordered the The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, a new six-episode limited series starring and executive produced by Samuel L. Jackson and based on the novel by Walter Mosley.

Produced by Apple Studios, the project will be adapted for the screen by Mosley, who also serves as an executive producer. David Levine and Eli Selden will executive produce for Anonymous Content. Diane Houslin will also executive produce alongside Mosley.

Books & Authors

Awards: RSL Giles St. Aubyn Winners

The winners of the 2020 Royal Society of Literature Giles St. Aubyn Awards for Nonfiction are:

£10,000 (about $13,520), to Doreen Cunningham for Soundings: A Journey with Whales (2022). Judge Damian Le Bas said the book "blends nature writing of the most urgent kind with precise and poetic observation of human tribulation and the interconnectedness of all things. This will be fresh, brave and unique."  

£5,000 (about $6,760), to Alice Sherwood for The Authenticity Playbook (2022). Judge Fiona St. Aubyn said the book "is both thought-provoking and highly entertaining, with extraordinary and intriguing anecdotes that skillfully illustrate why we are susceptible to fakery and fraud in our own world, and how mimicry is played out in the natural world."

£2,500 (about $3,380), to Danny Lavelle for Down and Out: A Journey Through Homelessness (2022). Judge Ramita Navai called the book "a moving, compassionate treatise on poverty and inequality told through captivating stories." 

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, December 29:

More Than a Body: Your Body Is an Instrument, Not an Ornament by Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25.99, 9780358229247) is a guide to cultivating positive body image.

Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles by Michelle Meadows, illus. by Ebony Glenn (Holt, $18.99, 9781250205667) is a picture book biography of the record-breaking gymnast.

The Dark Secret by Tui T. Sutherland, illus. by Mike Holmes (Graphix, $12.99, 9781338344219) is the fourth graphic novel adaptation of the middle-grade Wings of Fire series.

The Observer: A Modern Fable on Mastering Your Thoughts & Emotions by Todd Stottlemyre (Made for Success Publishing, $19.99, 9781641465342) is a novel written by the former baseball player.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (Melville House, $17.99, 9781612198552).

Book Review

Review: The Inland Sea

The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts (Catapult, $16.95 paperback, 272p., 9781646220175, January 12, 2021)

One hundred twenty million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, a massive body of water called the Eromanga Sea bisected the continent of Australia; within it, a prehistoric ecosystem thrived. The specter of this sea has haunted the arid landscape since, leaving ancient clues in the form of backward-flowing rivers, opal mines and oil fields. This sea was a panacea in the minds of Australia's early nation-builders, who saw it as the key to the agricultural success of their nascent empire, and a dark portent for their descendants, now contending with the consequences of a stripped environment. In Madeleine Watts's debut novel, The Inland Sea, the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of explorer John Oxley deals with a messy post-college life in Sydney while the latent effects of his colonial gaze unfold around her.

To supplement her intermittent freelance writing, the unnamed narrator of The Inland Sea starts an ill-suited job at the telecom company where all of Australia's emergency calls are dispatched. She works odd hours, receiving only fragments of emergencies through her headset before transferring them to the proper channels. But it soon becomes clear that the car accidents, fires, freak storms, overdoses and inscrutable howls that fill her days leave a potent hangover. The novel is moody, progressing like a low-level fever as the narrator engages in the standard debauchery that defines the unmoored post-college years of many young adults. At the center of her unhealthy behavior is Lachlan, an ex-boyfriend she begins to sleep with again, despite the brutal circumstances of their split and his ongoing relationship with a friend of hers. The topography of the narrator's interpersonal life resembles that of Australia: "Lachlan," the narrator tells us, is not actually his real name. She named him after the river that once caused her grandfather John Oxley so much grief, as he believed its backward flow would yield to a body of water big enough to redeem the barren landscape. Lachlan's promise proves to be similarly false, as he turns out to be a symptom of her spiral rather than an antidote.

With The Inland Sea, Watts has produced a model of autofiction in the age of climate disaster, a genre sure to dominate the coming era. The motivating logic of the novel rests on a conflation of internal and external emergency that would likely ring true to many young adults. As the novel develops, it becomes clear that this is not a purely solipsistic device but, rather, a reflection of the permanent place the climate emergency holds in the minds of those who have grown up contending with its brutal realities. --Emma Levy, freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Introspective with a febrile realism that borders on the surreal, Madeleine Watts's The Inland Sea is as evocative and haunting as works by Samantha Hunt or Ottessa Moshfegh.

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