Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 22, 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

Editors' Note

Happy Holidays!

In honor of Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year's, this is the last issue of Shelf Awareness Pro for 2020. We hope everyone has a much-needed rest after all that's happened this year and we hope for a brighter, happier New Year. We'll see you again on Monday, January 4, 2021.

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


How Bookstores Are Coping: Utmost Precautions; Steady Sales

In Denver, Colo., Second Star to the Right Children's Bookstore is now open for browsing for groups of five people or less, owner Dea Lavoie reported. Prior to allowing limited browsing, the store had been doing curbside service and appointments, but both options "weren't nearly as successful as just welcoming walk-ins." Lavoie and her team are taking the "utmost precautions," and customers have been "so lovely and understanding."

The pandemic pushed Second Star to the Right to get its e-commerce "up and running quickly," which has helped the store immensely. Lavoie explained that normally her business is very events-driven, and one of her biggest concerns was how events would work online. Many have been very successful, such as the store's drag queen storytime, musical storytime, many author events and a Santa event. For the Santa event, children's letters were dropped off at the store, and Santa recorded a video response for each one before doing a public storytime. Lavoie noted that initially the store tried doing daily storytime events, but those didn't draw the audience they'd hoped for, so she and her team have been experimenting with scheduling.

Mural outside Second Star to the Right

One of the nicest things about virtual events, Lavoie continued, has been the ability to connect with audiences outside of the Denver area, in different states and even different countries. She added that when children are able to see authors in their homes and workplaces, it seems to make the authors "more real and accessible." Lavoie plans to keep doing virtual events even after in-store events resume.

Lavoie praised the way her staff worked at promoting the store and continued "lovingly creating magic and nurturing our customers," despite everything else going on. "I'm just so proud of how they really stepped up. Hearts of booksellers are amazing."

When it came to ordering for the holidays, Lavoie's approach did not change. She had a feeling people would be eager to buy and "spread as much joy as possible" during a very difficult time, and that has been the case this holiday season. Customers responded well to the store's messaging about early shopping, and Lavoie and her team made extensive use of the ABA's material on the subject.

The store's biggest seller for adults has been A Promised Land by Barack Obama, while most of the top-selling books for children and teens have come from the store's holiday guide. Those picks include books like Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky, Furyborn by Claire Legrand and Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.


Benjamin Rybeck, general manager of House of Books in Kent, Conn., reported that the store began allowing appointment shopping in November and earlier this month opened for limited capacity browsing. No more than six people are allowed in at a time and the doors are open as often as possible to help keep the air circulating. While it's a little cold inside, Rybeck said ventilation seems key to avoiding indoor transmission and the store's customers seem grateful for the precaution.

House of Books currently resides in a smaller, temporary location while its original 2,000-square-foot space is being renovated. The pandemic has slowed down the pace of renovations, but Rybeck noted that it is looking "pretty spiffy," and he is quite fond of the store's current space.

Rybeck said he's grateful to everyone who has shopped with House of Books this year, and he believes that the store has more regular customers now than it did at the beginning of the year, partly because of the greater number of people spending time in northwestern Connecticut. Despite that support, he is hard pressed to find many bright spots amid all of this. He eagerly awaits the day when he can once again fill the store "with as many people as possible" without worrying about harm.

Comparing this holiday season to past years, Rybeck remarked that he doesn't feel the same sort of "mounting mania" this year, with things getting crazier and crazier "until they explode on Christmas Eve." It seems that his customers have been pacing themselves this year, with many people starting their shopping much earlier than usual. As a result, sales have been steady, but they probably won't reach the peaks they normally would between December 22-24. --Alex Mutter

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

Brooklyn's Greenlight Reopens Fort Greene Store

Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., has reopened its Fort Greene location, which it closed temporarily after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19. The store closed on Saturday, December 19, and was closed for 72 hours in keeping with CDC guidelines; it's reopening today. The staff member who tested positive is recovering at home. All other staff members have tested negative for Covid-19. 

"To make up for lost time," Greenlight is offering extended hours for order pickups at the Fort Greene store this week. Greenlight's Flatbush location, meanwhile, continued to stay open.

Robin Cutler Named President, Worldwide Publishing, at LMBPN

Robin Cutler

Robin Cutler has joined LMBPN Publishing, the digital book publisher founded in 2015, as president of worldwide publishing. She will oversee operations and business development for the division and work closely with Michael Anderle, who will continue as CEO and also take on the newly created role of chief creative officer. Together, they will build on Cutler's industry connections and expertise to develop strategies to expand LMBPN's presence in publishing and related areas.

Most recently Cutler was director of IngramSpark, Ingram Content Group's self-publishing platform, from which she retired last month, making her retirement one of the shortest on record. She joined Ingram in 2011, and two years later led the launch of IngramSpark. Earlier she was vendor manager at Amazon, CEO and founder of Summerhouse Press and assistant director of the University of South Carolina Press. She was also a recent board member of the Independent Book Publishers Association.

"I was just two days into my retirement from Ingram when Michael offered me this fantastic opportunity that was, frankly, too good to pass up," Cutler said. "Coupling my entrepreneurial style with LMBPN's impressive growth and publishing innovation seems like a perfect match. It will be a thrill for me to work with Michael and the talented team he's assembled at LMBPN."

Anderle said, "I met Robin at the 20Booksto50K conference held here in Las Vegas in 2019. During that week, I was impressed with the strength of her character, her knowledge, and how approachable she and her team were. Since then, we have had several opportunities to work together as industry partners, and throughout our interactions, I have had the utmost admiration and respect for Robin's innovative strategies and management style. She is a proven leader, and her shared values, passion, and enthusiasm make her a natural fit for LMBPN."

International Update: British Tier 4 Restrictions 'Desperately Disappointing'

Village Books in Dulwich

Booksellers in London and the south-east of England were forced to close their premises December 19 with just a few hours notice after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a Tier 4 lockdown. Booksellers Association CEO Meryl Halls called the development, which still permits click-and-collect services, "desperately disappointing," the Bookseller reported. Wales and Scotland have also increased restrictions.  

In addition, the sudden decision by many countries, particularly France, to seal off contact with the U.K. has begun affecting publishers' book imports and exports, according to the Bookseller. Indie publishers are especially hard hit, "calling the ban 'disastrous' as they wait both for titles to come in and for shipments to travel abroad."

"While we understand that public health must be a priority, and the new Covid strain is a big concern, the announcement of further, no-notice, lockdowns in London and the south-east and in Wales, with more non-essential retail closures to come in Scotland and Northern Ireland, is desperately disappointing and frustrating," Halls said. "Booksellers have absorbed every wave that's hit them this year, and bookshops across the country were starting to make up lost ground after months of disruption--and really enjoying being back to what they do best, which is obviously selling books to hungry book-buyers. It's heart-breaking to see the energy--which booksellers dig deep for every time the regulations are changed again--having to once more be spent to reinvent the shape of their shops and how to continue selling....

"We are looking to share the government guidance as it comes through--and we have been incredibly heartened by wonderfully supportive activity on social media, where unaffected bookshops are urging their customers to buy from Tier 4 area bookshops--but it's another bitter pill to swallow for booksellers and their fellow high street retailers. We need the government to fully understand the impact of these last-minute and draconian decisions on a business sector already reeling from a year of disruption and supply chain challenges; Christmas trading was the light at the end of tunnel for many, and we have to hope that that light is not entirely extinguished by this development."

Hazel Broadfoot, owner of Village Books in Dulwich, south-west London, said: "We're very sad that we've had to close our doors yet again this year, though we completely recognize that the safety of our community is paramount. We've been very busy and it's clear that there's a huge 'shop local' message that's being widely supported by our community. Our December trading has been very strong--had this shut down come a week earlier I'd have been more worried.... All things considered I'm optimistic about our current trading position. We're well set up for click and collect and online orders are coming through strongly. Sadly there will be a loss of sales on the titles that need hand-selling, often those from indie publishers. I'm also concerned about the impact of all this uncertainty on the health of our whole team--we're all exhausted after a very hard year."

Sanchita Basu de Sarkar, owner of the Children's Bookshop in Muswell Hill, north London, observed: "It's all been a bit of a blow really. We've only had 18 days of trading this December, which, when you think about all the energy and the love we put into the shop, just isn't enough. You've still got to keep trying though--we are doing click and collect, we've re-furloughed staff. Thank God for Meryl [Halls], she's really kept us all going--we'd be lost without her. I'm not very hopeful for the next three days because people are no longer going to be buying many presents." 


"In the darkest days of the pandemic, bookshops became our lockdown lifelines to the larger world," George Dunford wrote on ArtsHub, where he asked four Australian writers to share "what makes a bookshop valuable to them all year round."

"Surely no author is mad enough to publicly name a favorite bookshop, thereby telling all the others in the world that they aren't it?" noted Brisbane author Nick Earls. "Having said that, I've been in a lot of bookshops over the years, and the best of them have something in common.... In non-pandemic times, they provide a personal interface between authors and readers. The best bookshops are places where time passes at a different pace as you get lost there, re-learn the at-times lost art of browsing and realize it's really nothing like 'people who bought this also bought that.' "

Melbourne author Sally Rippin observed: "So many writers lead fairly introverted and isolated lives by choice, but I hadn't realized until that choice was taken away from me how much I craved connection with the outside world and likeminded people. Thank goodness for the Little Bookroom.... I feel so grateful to be a part of this whole big, beautiful book community, this year more than ever."


Slovyansk, Ukraine, has "come a long way in a short period of time," Transitions reported, noting that nearly seven years after Ukrainian government forces pushed Russian-backed separatists out of the city, it "has been living a full and peaceful life, and, locals say, things have changed a lot--and for the better." Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and now a second nationwide lockdown is set to begin January 8.

Bookseller Viktor Razzhyvin, who opened a branch of the national Knyharnya Ye chain in Slovyansk two years ago, said, "I remember that before the Russian occupation everyone went to Donetsk to buy books. There was not much to buy here and there was no large selection of Ukrainian books in Slovyansk. And now people from all over the region come to us. There are people who come every month or two just to buy Ukrainian books--more and more of them. We have an entire department of children's literature in Ukrainian. There is a high demand for it.

"Of course, the pandemic and the first lockdown hit our business very hard, and it will be difficult to predict what will happen next. But we continue to work, constantly updating our inventory with new books, because it's our native city and native region. Who, if not us?" --Robert Gray

Amazon: More Warehouses for Texas, Arkansas, South Dakota

Amazon plans to open a one million-square-foot fulfillment center in Missouri City, Tex., sometime in 2021. Alicia Boler Davis, v-p of global customer fulfillment, expressed gratitude "for the strong support we've received from local and state leaders as we broaden our footprint throughout Texas."

Missouri City Mayor Yolanda Ford commented: "Expanding the economic base is a citizen and city council priority, and this new Amazon center helps to achieve that goal. It's just another step in moving Missouri City's economy forward into the future."

City Manager Odis Jones added: "Our teams have been working hand-in-hand the last few weeks to finalize the deal and we are looking forward to continuing our corporate-community partnership with this industry giant for years to come."


Amazon is also planning to open a one million-square-foot fulfillment center in North Little Rock, Ark., in 2021. Davis again expressed gratitude "for the continued support we've received from local and state leaders and we look forward to leveraging our scale for good to support this great community."

Governor Asa Hutchinson said, "I'm delighted that Amazon has once again decided to invest in Central Arkansas, creating job opportunities for hundreds of Arkansans, and I'm confident that North Little Rock will be a perfect fit for the company's project."


South Dakota will get its first Amazon fulfillment center with the launch in 2022 of a 640,000-square-foot facility in Sioux Falls, where "employees will work alongside Amazon robotics to pick, pack and ship small items."

Davis lauded "the strong support from local and state leaders throughout the process," and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken added: "The team at Amazon has been incredible to work with, and we are excited to welcome them to Sioux Falls and to help make this partnership a win-win for many years to come."


'Ask Amy' Asks Booksellers

In an Ask Amy syndicated advice column published yesterday, Amy Dickinson turned to independent booksellers from around the country for holiday book recommendations. There are suggestions for everyone from babies and toddlers to adults and senior citizens.

The booksellers Dickinson consulted include: Lisa Swayze, general manager of Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, N.Y.; Sandra Dear, owner of The Little Boho Bookshop in Bayonne, N.J.; Becky Anderson, co-owner of Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville and Downers Grove, Ill.; Danielle Kreger of Blue Bunny Books & Toys in Dedham, Mass.; Alex George, owner of Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, Mo.; Mark LaFramboise, buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.; and Gayle Shanks, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Marie Benedict on CBS This Morning

Friday, December 25:
Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Barack Obama, author of A Promised Land (Crown, $45, 9781524763169).

Drew Barrymore Show repeat: Shannon Lee, author of Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee (Flatiron, $25.99, 9781250206688).

Saturday, December 26:
CBS This Morning: Marie Benedict, author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie (Sourcebooks Landmark, $26.99, 9781492682721).

Tuesday, December 29:
Drew Barrymore Show repeat: Erin Brockovich, author of Superman's Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It (Pantheon, $28.95, 9781524746964).

Wednesday, December 30:
Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Michael Eric Dyson, author of Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250276759).

Friday, January 1:
Drew Barrymore Show repeat: Amirah Kassem, author of Mystery of the Birthday Basher (Abrams, $14.99, 9781419740282).

Kelly Clarkson repeat: Natalie Portman, co-author of Natalie Portman's Fables (Feiwel & Friends, $19.99, 9781250246868).

TV: The Magical Reality of Nadia

Political satirist/comedian Bassem Youssef is teaming with Powerhouse Animation Studios to adapt his forthcoming book, The Magical Reality of Nadia, as a television series. Deadline reported that the book, written by Youssef and Catherine R. Daly with illustrations by Douglas Holgate (The Last Kids on Earth), "is inspired by Bassem's own experience and his hopes and dreams for his children." Scholastic will publish the first book in the series in February 2021.

Youssef will serve as executive producer and voice the character of Titi in the series. Brad Graeber and Daniel Dominguez will also exec produce the project, which will initially be shopped to streaming services.

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out the Week After Next

Selected new titles appearing on Tuesday, January 5:

All the Colors of Night by Jayne Ann Krentz (Berkley, $27, 9781984806819) follows two psychics investigating a secret government program.
The Push: A Novel by Ashley Audrain (Pamela Dorman, $26, 9781984881663) is a psychological drama about a new mother.

A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself by Peter Ho Davies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, 9780544277717) explores the consequences of two pregnancies, one successful.

American Traitor by Brad Taylor (Morrow, $28.99, 9780062886064) is the 15th military thriller with Pike Logan.

To Be Honest by Michael Leviton (Abrams Press, $26, 9781419743054) is a memoir about being raised to be always truthful no matter what.

Martha Stewart's Very Good Things: Clever Tips & Genius Ideas for an Easier, More Enjoyable Life by Martha Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9781328508263) is a guide to multiple lifestyle subjects.

Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning by Tom Vanderbilt (Knopf, $26.95, 9781524732165) chronicles a mid-life attempt to learn chess, singing, surfing, drawing and juggling.

The Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Tiffany D. Jackson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99, 9780374313296) is a fictionalized account of Malcolm X's time as an adolescent in jail.

C Is for Country by Lil Nas X, illus. Theodore Taylor III (Random House, $18.99, 9780593300787), is the "Old Town Road" rapper's debut picture book.

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala (Sourcebooks Fire, $17.99, 9781492682691) features a young man determined to win a cosplay competition--especially since his ex-boyfriend is his biggest competition.

A Cowboy for Keeps by Jody Hedlund (Bethany House, $15.99, 9780764236396).

Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz (Revell, $16.99, 9780800734961).

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 Thirty Names of Night: A Novel by Zeyn Joukhadar (Atria, $27, 9781982121495). "An affecting, multigenerational coming-of-age story about a young Syrian American artist's discovery of self and the truth behind his mother's mysterious passing. Featuring alternating perspectives that weave the past into the present, this novel embodies the epistolary not just in form and address, but in the way it reads like a love letter to New York City, especially the immigrant, working-class, and LGBTQ underground of New York. A book with a heartbeat, despite all its ghosts." --Serena Morales, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A Certain Hunger: A Novel by Chelsea G. Summers (The Unnamed Press, $26, 9781951213145). "A surprising novel that will lure you in with its delicious writing and leave you hungry (in more ways than one). Food critic Dorothy Daniels wants good food and good sex, and she will go to whatever lengths she needs in order to get them. At once a critique of the food industry and a criminal's account, A Certain Hunger is a stunning feminist page-turner. With its devious protagonist and delectable prose, you will devour this novel." --Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

How to Fail at Flirting: A Novel by Denise Williams (Berkley, $16, 9780593101902). "A sweet romance about a professor who decides to take a chance when she finds herself out at a bar by herself seated next to an attractive man in town on business. Naya never would have imagined that their one-night stand would turn into a week-long fling with the potential for even more. And because of her toxic past relationships, she is hesitant to trust Jake. I loved reading about a professor as a romance leading lady!" --Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
Dear Earth... From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey, illus. by Luisa Uribe (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780062915320). "The students in Room 5 write to their pen pal--the Earth--detailing their yearlong efforts to help improve the environment and decrease their carbon footprint. This is a fun addition for Earth Day and sure to be a hit with teachers!" --Jill Burket Ragase, Blue Manatee Literacy Project Bookstore, Cincinnati, Ohio

For Teen Readers
The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley (HarperTeen, $17.99, 9780062409263). "Any theater nerd, especially those who enjoyed the epic highs and lows of high school theater, will gobble up this book and enjoy every second. Everything rang so true and felt incredibly real! I adored every character--and found myself listening to the Les Mis soundtrack while reading!" --Abby Bennsky, Old Town Books, Alexandria, Va.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: I Just Wanted to Save My Family: A Memoir

I Just Wanted to Save My Family: A Memoir by Stéphan Pélissier, Cécile-Agnès Champart, trans. by Adriana Hunter (Other Press, $16.99 paperback, 256p., 9781635420180, January 5, 2021)

The title alone is a universally resounding cry for help: I Just Wanted to Save My Family. It also proves to be French legal expert and first-time author Stéphan Pélissier's best defense to challenge a guilty verdict that demands seven years of imprisonment. Co-written with Cécile-Agnès Champart and translated by the prodigious and award-winning Adriana Hunter, Pélissier's earnest memoir provides polyphonic testimony to resilience, justice and, most of all, the unbreakable bonds of familial love.

Pélissier and his wife, Zena, a Syrian immigrant pursuing her Ph.D. in penal law, meet on a dating site in April 2011. After an initial (almost comical) misunderstanding about commitment and other women, the pair share an idyllic courtship, discussing marriage after only six months. The Syrian war prevents both families from being present at the couple's French wedding, but the newly intended couple manage to meet Zena's parents and siblings in Beirut to receive joyous blessing just before their July 2012 nuptials.

The violence continues to escalate in Syria, claiming Zena's family's apartment in Damascus. And then her father is abducted for four months in 2014. France is the logical destination for relocation, with Zena and her sister already living there, and yet the rest of the family inexplicably is denied asylum. Relying on illegal migration networks becomes the only alternative for escape. Parents Saif and Wafaa, sister Mayada and brother Anas--with the last-minute addition of cousin Samer--abandon Syria in the summer of 2015, resolved to reach France. Their perilous odyssey is interrupted in Greece, where the potentially fatal threat of crossing into Italy is so great that Pélissier travels to Athens determined to secure a legal ferry crossing for his extended in-laws. His brave intentions land the entire group in Greek prison; despite a surprisingly quick release, Pélissier was eventually charged by the Greek government with human trafficking, sparking a labyrinthine, four-year journey for justice. His in-laws' arduous path, meanwhile, continues across more countries, and they encounter further alarming obstacles before finally achieving reunion.

While Pélissier isn't (yet) an elegant writer--the narrative is occasionally clumsy, the timeline a bit scattered and repetitive--what he lacks in style is easily, abundantly compensated with raw, fervent, unwavering emotion. Intertwined with his own impassioned recollections are the first-person accounts of Zena, who relates both her husband's and her family's ordeals, and youngest brother Anas, who details the family's agonizing decision to abandon their homeland and the resulting uncertain aftermath. Their "jokey" designation as "the 'good criminals' " proves to be "[their] way of recording the absurdity of the situation," as well as preserving their inspiring, tenacious document of triumph. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: I Just Wanted to Save My Family becomes both a personal goal and legal defense in a Frenchman's odyssey--as absurd as it is harrowing--to help his Syrian wife's family reach safety in France.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Stay for Me by Corinne Michaels
2. Depends On Who's Asking (SWAT Generation 2.0 Book 12) by Lani Lynn Vale
3. The Villain: A Billionaire Romance by L.J. Shen
4. Rejected by Jaymin Eve
5. The Revenge Pact by Ilsa Madden-Mills
6. The Relationship Pact by Adriana Locke
7. Make Me Yours by Melanie Harlow
8. Magick and Mischief by Michelle M. Pillow
9. The Romantic Pact by Meghan Quinn
10. The Not-Outcast by Tijan

[Many thanks to!]

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