Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 4, 2021

Union Square Kids: Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, illustrated by Tom de Freston

Tor Teen: Into the Light by Mark Oshiro

Peachtree Teen: Junkyard Dogs by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard

Blackstone Publishing: The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully by Morrie Schwartz and Rob Schwartz

Neal Porter Books: All the Beating Hearts by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Cátia Chien

Quotation of the Day

'Resilient Seems Like an Impossibly Small Word to Describe Our Bookstores'

"As we look back on 2020, I want to recognize a few things. Earlier this year when everything stopped, we were met with tragedy after tragedy and the world seemed like it would never be the same, we went into survival mode. Amazon, who has a stranglehold on our industry in seemingly insurmountable ways, deprioritized selling books. I hope we never forget this.


"Independent bookstores didn't shut down, they didn't deprioritize books, they refocused, they adapted, they completely changed their businesses to sell books. They learned how to host online events, they became shipping centers, they handsold books virtually and became social media and ecommerce experts in a matter of weeks. For the unfathomable hellscape 2020 has been, I have never been prouder to be in this industry. Resilient seems like an impossibly small word to describe our bookstores. Thank you for inspiring, thank you for continuing and I look forward to 2021 with all of you. Happy New Year."

--Larry Law, executive director of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline


Indies Reflect on 2020, Look Forward to a More Manageable 2021

Sales at independent booksellers in the holiday period were mixed, but even the indies with positive financial results for the year had to scramble and remake their stores, in some ways temporarily but in other ways permanently. They had to adapt to new kinds of sales, marketing, and events and new kinds of customers with different expectations--and the loss of some longtime, profitable sales channels. The constant shifting and reinvention and "working harder to earn less," as some have said, has taken its toll. Still, with vaccinations beginning, a better sense of what to expect during these difficult times and the likelihood of more effective leadership fighting the pandemic, many booksellers are optimistic--or trying to be--about the new year.

Michael Barnard, Rakestraw Books

Rakestraw Books in Danville, Calif., had "a good season even with all the challenges," owner Michael Barnard reported. "Sales started off strong and remained so throughout November and December." Because the store didn't expand capacity numbers in the fall, it wasn't affected by greater limitations imposed last month, and "customers were for the most part patient and enthusiastically supportive." Web business was "up dramatically, and, more than anything, made up the increase we saw in both November and December."

Supply chain disruption affected some publishers and titles more than others, he continued, but the store was able to obtain most books it needed, sometimes from other retailers, and 95% of all orders it shipped in November and December arrived in time for Christmas. And HarperOne "saved Christmas Eve by coming through with 48 copies of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse."

As for 2021, Barnard said he believes "we're in for continued challenges--possible harder shelter-in-place measures, community grieving, and the slowness of the vaccinations--but I am excited for some great new books and the pleasure of selling them."


Margot Sage-EL at Watchung Booksellers

At Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., sales for 2020 were down 3% compared to 2019, so financially the store is relatively healthy, but "the changes here kept our heads spinning," owner Margot Sage-EL said.

Online sales at Watchung Booksellers went from 1.7% of total sales in 2019 to 30% in 2020 (and while the store was closed to the public from March through June, online sales accounted for 60% of all sales). "We went from personal service/curated selection to being online order processors of any book ever published. In fact, we were running two full-time businesses with reduced staff! [Two-thirds of senior booksellers were out for pandemic-related reasons.] Supply issues, while expected, became harder to handle with so many online sales. We had to manipulate the website so people could just order what we had in stock, which changed daily and was not up-to-date as we were grossly behind in receiving. Shop early/ship local worked! Mid-November to mid-December, we were working from 7 a.m. till midnight, seven days a week (until shipping out finally stopped). Our usual fun weeks at the end piddled to a slow slog as we could only let in five people at a time. We were down $30,000 in December. So, needless to say, and we said it many times, we were exhausted. For the first time in 25 years, we closed December 31 to January 3 to rest and regroup, and we'll take two days for inventory January 4-5."

Sage-EL praised the American Booksellers Association's marketing campaigns promoting indie bookstores and its fine-tuning of IndieCommerce. Still, the big gain in new online customers accustomed to Amazon came with a toll: "These were people who have HIGH consumer expectations and no understanding that there were human beings behind the digitized website, and that publishers and shipping companies were compromised," Sage-EL said. "So we went from extreme highs from the gratitude of our regulars for keeping them in books to the condescending scorn of digital shoppers for our shortfalls."

The biggest losses during 2020 involved school book fairs, school author visits and school orders, which led to a 20%-50% decrease in children's book sales. The store's usual busy schedule of in-store events and offsite author talks came to "a grinding halt, but we were able to develop a fairly steady program of virtual book talks through Crowdcast," Sage-EL noted. "We didn't have access to big names, since those seemed to be more controlled by publishers or a few big-name bookstores, but we were able to offer our local authors and special interest authors a very nice platform. The sales are not comparable to in-store events where people can personally connect with an author through a signed copy, but the reach was wider for each event and sales were solid for new releases."

During the year, new releases in fiction and nonfiction rose 43% each, dominating sales, and sales of books concerning racial issues were up 1,000%. Nature, gardening and cooking, classics, sci-fi and adult graphic novels also had strong sales, while paperback fiction, history and poetry were flat.

As for the new year, Sage-EL said that 2021 is at least "a year where we are more aware and cautious of what is ahead of us, and can plan accordingly." The store projects that 25%-30% of sales will be online, which "needs to be managed better because it takes too many steps and too many people." She wants to hire some "tech-savvy, order-processing people to handle this part. We need to relieve our few senior booksellers from the online process to concentrate on marketing, buying, organizing."

She added that last year, the store "let the orders run the show." This year, by contrast, "we need to get in front and make our recommendations stronger through the website, our newsletter and social media. We already know that we are great at personal customer service and curation, and we can handle the fewer people that actually come in to browse. But we need to control the narrative, so to speak, of our online business. We have to get our personality through. There has to be a reason why people come to us, not just because of anti-Amazon sentiment."


At Changing Hands, Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., holiday sales were up compared to the same period in 2019, according to co-owner Cindy Dach, who said, "In preparation for the holidays, we engaged in on-going strategic planning around the possibility of a second closure and supply chain issues. That led us to lean into our curated book bundles and gift boxes. These sold instore and were incredibly popular for online orders and curbside pickup. We purchased inventory in large quantities for the bundles, also knowing they would serve day-to-day inventory."

Among bestselling books were A Promised Land by Barack Obama, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, Shade by Pete Souza, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab, Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West by Lauren Redniss, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw, What Unites Us by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner, The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (especially at Changing Hands' Phoenix store), The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., and Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

The Book Lover gift box at Changing Hands

The bestselling book bundles/gift boxes for adults were mystery, horror, historical fiction, sf/fantasy and #ownvoices. The bestselling gift adult gift boxes were the Arizona Love Gift Box, the Sonoran Gardner's Gift Box, the Book Lover Gift Box and the Art of Rest gift Box. The bestselling kids gift boxes were the Welcome Baby Gift Box, the Crafty Kids Gift Box and the Kids STEM-ulating Gift Box.

Sidelines sales were down; the most popular sidelines were cooking related, games and puzzles, garden, socks, gift boxes, journals and bath & beauty.

Dach added that "the majority of our customers were gracious and amazing. They complimented our capacity management and safety guidelines. There were, of course, some who challenged the mask-wearing mandate, and they were utterly exhausting as they challenged our patience."

Changing Hands is "optimistic about 2021," Dach continued. "From managing through crises, we become more efficient and continue to analyze our priorities and capacity. There is also wider general awareness about the value of local business in a way we haven't seen before. We plan to maintain our online business, our curated bundles alongside our in-store experience. We are setting our goals to work collaboratively with the ABA to improve our online operations."


John Evans at Diesel

As was the case for many stores, at Diesel, which has locations in Brentwood and Del Mar, Calif., in-store sales during the holiday period were down because of Covid-related limitations on browsing and opening hours, but online orders were up. Still, the increase in e-commerce was not enough to offset the loss of holiday sales, co-owner John Evans said.

"Customer loyalty, passion, interest in books as gifts were all very high, making it an enjoyable experience, as usual, in the store," he added. "The logistics of maintaining safely distanced handselling (that's a tricky one) and controlling the numbers of people, were very trying. The nature of bookselling now being belabored phone calls, e-mails, and web orders, rather than more direct and immediate handsells, provided extra strain for all of us. We think readers were very satisfied with our service, responsiveness, respect, and care regarding health measures. We received many compliments about our decisions regarding protocols."

He noted that there were some popular titles that were hard to obtain, in part because "here on the West Coast we have our own particular problems getting our books in a timely fashion. Many publishers appear to still be using the Pony Express to get their books to us, making it harder to compete with online, get-the-books-in-two-days offers." He complained that online retailers had some titles that Diesel couldn't obtain, and "there is no way of explaining that to our (and their) customers."

Because of a lack of "relaxed in-store browsing time, and limited numbers of people trying to spend less time, many of the books that sold were more expected, predictable, and based on recommended lists in the media," Evans observed. "This is something some publishers may welcome, but does not seem in the interests of especially smaller publishers, nor the culture at large."

He continued, "Throughout 2020, indie booksellers have been slammed by the massive pivot toward online orders, shipping, special orders--away from in-store display and handselling. As with all aspects of our culture and economy, Covid-19 conditions have served to highlight so many of the structural faults in our systems. Faults that were always there but that are now more visible; accentuated; and, in many cases, intensified."

Evans said he hopes that in 2021 publishers follow the lead of indies who have "doubled down on our commitments to reading, to literacy, to our communities, to the importance of the written word. It would be great if publishers did the same and put their money where their mouths are, and took the rhetoric, and storytelling, they use, seriously--by supporting the immensely productive ecosystems of independent bookstores nationwide."

GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

Indies to Customers: 'We Couldn't Have Made It Through this Year Without You'

At Roundabout Books, Bend, Ore.

An end-of-year message of gratitude to customers is a longstanding tradition for independent booksellers, but 2020 was--to say the least--a special case, and the level of appreciation increased exponentially. As 2021, with all of its hopes and potential hazards, approached, indies took a moment to celebrate on social media just how important their customers had been during this singular year of global pandemic-induced challenges. Here's a sampling:

Afterwords Books, Edwardsville, Ill.: "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you to all who chose to shop small this holiday season! A record number of gift cards were purchased and lots and lots of lovely new books were ordered online. This will go a long way in helping us weather the first quarter of the year, which typically finds business much slower...."

Russo's Books, Bakersfield, Calif.: "We opened up a few months after Ronald Reagan left office. We've seen a lot, but obviously we haven't seen everything. Truthfully, we didn't even have 'Global Pandemic' on our BINGO card. Thanks for your faithful support."

Edmonds Bookshop, Edmonds, Wash.

Blue Cypress Books, New Orleans, La.: "As 2020 draws to a close, Blue Cypress Books is still standing and in most ways, stronger than before. And that's because we are bolstered by an incredible book-loving-small-business-supporting community. So here's to a swift departure from 2020, and best wishes for a 2021 filled with newfound hope and optimism. We look forward to keeping you well-stocked with everything you need to read in the coming year and we love all y'all!"

cultured books, St. Petersburg, Fla.: "2020 has been a year of constant uncertainty, heartache... trauma. But, it's also been a year that has brought great clarity and immense comfort from commUNITY! I'm so blessed to know so many amazing people who've helped us continue despite _(insert 2020 negativity)_."

City of Asylum Bookstore at Alphabet City, Pittsburgh, Pa.: "Scenes from a year like no others. Thanks for being there for us, friends."

Monkey See, Monkey Do Children's Bookstore, Clarence, N.Y.: "As we readily turn the page to a new year, we want to thank you for your support of our indie bookstore. This year has been filled with challenges and yet it is because of the opportunities that arose from these very struggles that we are here today."

Oliver & Friends Bookshop and Reading Room, Belgrade, Maine: "As I sit here in the quiet, surrounded by books it occurs to me that a year ago I was starting to plan the huge party that would have been our Grand Opening. What a difference a year makes.... I will be forever grateful for the way you've embraced my little village bookshop. I appreciate your patronage, of course. But more than that I appreciate your endless words of encouragement and the wonderful conversations we've had this year."

Viewpoint Books, Columbus, Ind.: "We've said it before, but it's worth repeating: THANK YOU. In what was one of the most challenging years ever for small businesses, we finished 2020 with full hearts, thanks to the incredible support we received from our neighbors and friends, near and far...."

Bookish, Fort Smith, Ark.: "And just like that, 2020 is in the books.... Thank you for keeping us here, Fort Smith. We wouldn’t want to live through a global pandemic anywhere else. Well, Fiji. Maybe Fiji."

Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Harrisburg, Pa.: "Well, you don't need a full recap to know that 2020 was one of the most tumultuous and surreal years for small businesses. We're tremendously grateful to our community of readers, our hard-working group of booksellers, and our dedicated customers who have supported us with well-wishes, book orders, and endless encouragement throughout the year. We couldn't have made it through this year without you...."

A New Year's resolution from Brick & Mortar Books, Redmond, Wash.

Browseabout Books, Rehoboth Beach, Del.: "While we are THRILLED to be done with 2020, we would be remiss if we did not take a moment to thank YOU, our wonderful customers, for your amazing support during this wretched, wretched year. Our staff is still smiling because your support has kept our doors open and allowed us to do what we love. So, thank you, from the bottom of our Browseabout hearts...."

Word After Word Books, Truckee, Calif.: "We finally made it! Phew, what a wacky year. We can't say we're sorry to see it end. If there is a silver lining, it's that all of you read so many more books this year!... Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your support, for helping us move into this big, beautiful space, and most important, for helping us keep our staff and customers safe. It made a difference, and we are so grateful!"

The Novel Neighbor, St. Louis, Mo.: "Dear neighbors: thank you for keeping us alive this year. Without your support, words of encouragement, and smiling eyes, we never would have made it. We are the luckiest, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. May 2021 bring better days for us all."

Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H.: "Thanks to everyone who supported our bookstore through this once in a lifetime (we hope) year. Whether it was buying books from us, or attending our online events, or engaging with us in the store and on social media, you helped us make it through. We literally can't do it without you."

Novel Bay Booksellers, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.: "A parting photo from a year no one is sad to see end: It symbolizes the light that glowed through the darkness because of you. Your passion for books and support for what you value enabled us to keep the lights on, the bills paid and welcome you to our little bookshop. Now, on to 2021!"

Soho Press: Black Dove by Colin McAdam

Winners of Nancy Olson Bookseller Award

Lisa Yee Swope of Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Bonnie Shank of the Storybook Shoppe in Bluffton, S.C., are the 2020 recipients of the Nancy Olson Bookseller Award. The award honors Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance booksellers who embody the spirit of the late Nancy Olson, founder of Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C., in supporting writers--especially new writers--other booksellers and community outreach; it has a $2,000 cash prize and was begun by an anonymous author.

Lisa Yee Swope

Swope joined Bookmarks three years ago as it was shifting from an annual book festival to a bricks-and-mortar bookstore with year-round programming. She is a frontline bookseller and manages the Bookmarks Kids Club, a subscription service for kids in which she gets to individually pick books for dozens of children, allowing her to form ongoing relationships with the families in the community and the grandparents, aunts and uncles in the community who have littles they love in and out of area. Swope said, "I am delighted that the Bookmarks community sees and lauds my exuberance for sharing the things I love. It's a daily joy to be part of a great org that is making such a difference in our schools and community."

Bonnie Shank

Shank joined the Storybook Shoppe nine years ago, after a 34-year career as an English and Language Arts teacher in the Department of Defense school system, living and teaching in Panama, Okinawa, Japan and Germany. She said, "Each day in the bookstore is a ray of sunshine surrounded by books and helping parents, grandparents, and children find the right book. Nothing is better than hearing a mother or grandmother say their children devour books. This morning a grandfather came in and was looking for a Christmas book to read to his two- and four-year-old grandchildren through Skype. What fun it was to help him pick the perfect book to share."

Judges for the award were Nancy Olson's husband, Jim Olson; Sarah Goddin, buyer and former general manager of Quail Ridge Books; and Linda-Marie Barrett, executive director of SIBA.

Olson said, "Nancy would have loved this. She was a champion of other bookstores and would have loved to have seen booksellers so generously rewarded and acknowledged for the work they do for their communities."

Barrett added: "We received an amazing set of nominations this year. There were so many wonderful booksellers making such a difference in their communities; it was incredibly difficult to select just two."

Weiser Books: Mexican Sorcery: A Practical Guide to Brujeria de Rancho by Laura Davila

B&N Moving Westport, Conn., Store

The Barnes & Noble in Westport, Conn., has closed its location in the Post Plaza Shopping Center, where it had been since 1997, and will reopen downtown, Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journals reported.

The new B&N site was home to a Restoration Hardware for nearly 20 years before it closed last spring, and earlier was the longtime movie theater in town. At 10,000 square feet, the space is dramatically smaller than the 55,500-square-foot closed B&N, but is centrally located. B&N expects to reopen in February, but without the cafe of the closed branch.

Obituary Note: Barry Lopez

Barry Lopez, "a lyrical writer who steeped himself in Arctic wildernesses, the habitats of wolves and exotic landscapes around the world for award-winning books that explored the kinship of nature and human culture," died December 25, the New York Times reported. He was 75. Lopez, who won the 1987 National Book Award (nonfiction) for Arctic Dreams (1986), "embraced landscapes and literature with humanitarian, environmental and spiritual sensibilities that some critics likened to those of Thoreau and John Muir."

Last September, Oregon's wildfires destroyed much of his property. Lopez's wife, Debra Gwartney, told NPR that he lost an archive storing most of his books, awards, notes and correspondence from the past 50 years, as well as much of the forest around the home. "He talked a lot about climate change and how it's so easy to think that it's going to happen to other people and not to you," she said. "But it happened to us, it happened to him personally. The fire was a blow he never could recover from."

In a 2005 Guardian piece, British writer Robert Macfarlane observed: "Throughout his writings, Lopez returns to the idea that natural landscapes are capable of bestowing a grace upon those who pass through them. Certain landscape forms, in his vision, possess a spiritual correspondence. The stern curve of a mountain slope, a nest of wet stones on a beach, the bent trunk of a windblown tree: These abstract shapes can call out in us a goodness we might not have known we possessed."

Lopez's book Of Wolves and Men (1978) was a National Book Award finalist and won the John Burroughs Medal and the Christopher Award. The Times noted that his fiction, "a shelf of novels and short stories, reflected his humanist convictions, a blend of adventure, intimacy, ethics and identity." His other works include Light Action in the Caribbean (2000); Resistance (2004); Outside: Six Short Stories (2014); Crow and Weasel (1990); Horizon (2019); About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory (1998); and Crossing Open Ground (1989).

"Since Barry's death on Christmas Day, I have been thinking most of all about the example he set for those of us who try to write about our relationship with the Earth," author Pam Houston wrote in the Los Angeles Times. "He traveled to the Arctic, the Galapagos, Kenya, the Grand Canyon, Antarctica, Namibia, Australia's Nullarbor Plain, not to see them but to learn them. He knew so much, but I think what I admired most about him is that he also knew what he didn't know. He often said that to allow for mystery in your life, to admit what you don't know, is to allow yourself an extraordinary freedom. One goal of his traveling, of his writing, was to allow that mystery to deepen.

"He knew how to listen, how to enter a room and be quiet and wait. He spent his entire life listening--to the land, of course, and also and especially to the people indigenous to the land, people who had been caring for the land sustainably for 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 years. He recognized and respected their deep, land-based history, knew they were better attuned to nuance in their surrounding landscapes, admired the way they lived 'in a kind of ethical unity with a place' where 'their bonds to the earth are as much moral as biological.' He called their way of living 'a fundamental human defense against loneliness.' "

In his Guardian piece, McFarlane had noted: "Perhaps the best way to think of Lopez is as a postmodern devout. His prose--priestly, intense, grace-noted--carries the hushed urgency of the sermon. Irony and ambiguity are not in his repertoire. His is an unshadowed style, 'transparent as a polished windowpane.' "


Pennie Picks: The Night Portrait

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has picked The Night Portrait by Laura Morelli (Morrow, $16.99, 9780062993571) as her pick for December. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she writes:

"What do you get if you combine World War II and a painting by Leonardo da Vinci? A book buyer's pick: specifically, The Night Portrait by Laura Morelli.

"Told in dual timelines, The Night Portrait tells the stories of two women who are searching to forge their destinies. First, a 16-year-old in 1492 Milan is fighting for her place in the palace when she's asked to sit for a portrait by da Vinci. Centuries later, an art conservator watches helplessly as the Nazis steal valuable works of art and takes action that could risk her life.

"This novel is rich in scope and detail."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the View, Colbert's Late Show

Kelly Clarkson Show: Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed (The Dial Press, $28, 9781984801258).

Good Morning America: Tim Tebow, co-author of Bronco and Friends: A Party to Remember (WaterBrook, $17.99, 9780593232040).

Also on GMA: Sara Shepard and Lilia Buckingham, authors of Influence (Delacorte, $17.99, 9780593121535).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Kelly Leveque, author of Body Love: A Journal: 12 Weeks to Practice Positivity, Create Momentum, and Build Your Healthy Lifestyle (Morrow, $15, 9780063048980).

The View: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, author of Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501166730). He will also appear on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Movies: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Independent film and TV production company A24 is developing a film version of Ocean Vuong's novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. Variety reported that the project was announced during the A24 Podcast, which featured a one-on-one conversation between Vuong and Bryan Washington, whose novel Memorial is being adapted for TV by A24.

The introduction to the podcast stated: "We're thrilled to be adapting Memorial as a limited TV series. And now seems as good a time as any to announce we're also busy working on the film adaptation of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. Both novels are essential winter reading, and this conversation between Bryan and Ocean is a perfect primer."

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN Literary Longlists

Longlists have been announced for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards, which will confer more than $380,000 to writers and translators. Spanning fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, essay, science writing, translation and more, "these longlisted books are dynamic, diverse, and thought-provoking examples of literary excellence," PEN America noted. Finalists for all book awards will be revealed in February. The longlisted titles may be viewed here.

Book Review

Review: Shipped

Shipped by Angie Hockman (Gallery Books, $16 paperback, 336p., 9781982151591, January 19, 2021)

Angie Hockman's first novel, Shipped, is a smart, crackling romantic comedy narrated by the driven and self-deprecating Henley Rose Evans. The 28-year-old shares her single life and one-bedroom Belltown, Seattle, apartment with a gray tabby. Henley is named for the lead singer of the Eagles, yet she considers herself the "furthest thing from a rock star you can find on planet Earth."

Henley's world is small--outside of a few trips to Colorado and one spring break in Cancún, she's never left the Pacific Northwest. Henley had designs on seeing the whole world until "life happened," and adult bill-paying became her priority. A job at Seaquest Adventures--a boutique cruise ship line--seemed right up her alley and inspired her "big dreams for a shiny, successful career." After three years of hard work, while pursuing her MBA at night, she's on track to being named director of digital marketing.

But her smooth sail up the corporate ladder is stalled when a promotional marketing video Henley creates is co-opted and undermined by a "virtual" coworker: Graeme Crawford-Collins from Michigan. Graeme, with the company for only a year, is suddenly minted the new social media manager. Henley deems handsome Graeme "the bane of my professional existence... a sneaky, entitled user." This suspicion is further confirmed when Henley's video goes viral and their boss, the epitome of #MeToo bad behavior, gives his boy-pal "Graham Cracker-Collins... Mr. High-and-Mighty Social Media Guru" all the credit for the video's success. In shock, neither Graeme nor Henley corrects the faux pas. This raises the stakes between the coworkers as they are suddenly forced to compete for the directorship position. A cruise to the Galápagos Islands pits them--and their individual creative visions for the company--against each other as part of the final selection process.

What ensues is a host of madcap, flirty adventures set in beautiful, exotic locales. On the cruise, Henley struggles to ward off her competition, lust, seasickness, a fear of snorkeling, the hijinks of an amorous, wise-cracking cruise ship guest and even her life-of-the-party sister, who joins Henley on the work-trip voyage.

The wind-whipped sails of Henley's journey to enlightenment are further powered with clever, breezy banter, sarcastic wit and an endearing supporting cast. Hockman offers readers a fun literary escape with undercurrents of deeper truths. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: This madcap escapade pits a driven workaholic for a cruise line against her handsome professional nemesis while sailing the Galápagos Islands.

The Bestsellers Bestsellers in December

The bestselling audiobooks at independent bookstores during December:

1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Macmillan Audio)
2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Penguin Random House Audio)
4. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline (Penguin Random House Audio)
5. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Penguin Random House Audio)
6. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Simon & Schuster Audio)
7. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (Macmillan Audio)
8. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (Penguin Random House Audio)
9. In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (Simon & Schuster Audio)
10. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (HarperAudio)

1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. The Best of Me by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)
4. Wintering by Katherine May (Penguin Random House Audio)
5. Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo (Hachette Audio)
6. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (Penguin Random House Audio)
7. Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Penguin Random House Audio)
8. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Tantor Media)
9. So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo (Blackstone Publishing)
10. Becoming by Michelle Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)

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