Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 14, 2021

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

Quotation of the Day

'Shedding Light on the Dark Corners of the Public Discourse'

"Since the first published texts there have been calls to disown different printed work, and at Powell's we have a long history of experiencing these calls, and the threats they bring with them, firsthand. Until recently the threats were from those who objected that we carried books written by authors we respected or subjects we supported. The threats were real but we could feel virtuous--we were bringing the written word to the light of day. We could feel proud of our choices, even when the choices created conflict.

"Our current fight does not feel virtuous.  It feels ugly and sickening to give any air to writing that could cause such deep pain to members of our community. But we have always sold books that many of us would reject.  We have fought for decades, at Powell's, for the right of a book to stand on its own. Doing so is one of our core values as booksellers.

"In our history we have sold many copies of books we find objectionable. We do that in spite of all the reasons not to, because we believe that making the published word available is an important and crucial step in shedding light on the dark corners of the public discourse. It is actually a leap of faith into the vortex of the power of the written word and our fellow citizens to make sense of it.

"That leap of faith is inextricably woven into our existence as Powell's: faith in our customers is what first propelled us from a small corner store into who we are today.  We recognize that not every reader has good intentions, or will arrive at a writer's intended destination, but we do believe that faith must extend to our community of readers. That offering the printed word in all its beauty and gore, must ultimately move us forward. As my father says, if your principles are only your principles sometimes, they're not principles at all."
--Emily Powell, owner of Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., in a letter to customers in response to protests about the store carrying Andy Ngo's Unmasked: Inside Antifa's Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan


The Book Table in Ill. Launches Crowdfunding Campaign

The Book Table, Oak Park, Ill., launched a GoFundMe campaign earlier this week, with a $250,000 goal, to counter the challenges to the business brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. As of this morning, the bookshop had raised more than $138,000.

"We're a little worried. We're worried that we have led you to believe that you don't need to worry about us," co-owners Rachel Weaver and Jason Smith wrote on the fundraising page. "We don't *like* having people worry about us, but sometimes a stiff upper lip will only get you so far. When we told you in December that we needed help with crowd control, when you saw us with lines of customers waiting outside, when we told you we had more web orders than we could handle, a lot of you responded with the words, 'That's a good problem to have!' Here's the thing though: in normal times, that might be true, but during Covid, none of these were good signs."

Noting they had resisted the idea of doing "a full-on fundraiser," the owners said that after the holiday season, they reassessed their situation and decided "the problems that we've faced for the last nine months have become far too pressing. We pay $18,000 a month in rent plus another $55,000 a year in property taxes. That's $271,000 a year before we even pay to turn the lights on, pay a single salary, or buy a book to put on our shelves. It's an astonishing figure, but in normal times, it actually makes sense. But these are not normal times."

Citing Covid vaccine rollouts and a new administration as hopeful signs for the future, Weaver and Smith said they still "need to make it to that future first. We know that everywhere you turn right now, there are people, organizations and businesses that are worse off. We know that it's unfair to be asking the same people who *have* been supporting us and buying from us through the whole pandemic to do even more. But we've exhausted most of our options at this point, so here we are. If you can afford to do so, if our continued presence in Oak Park matters to you, please consider donating. We couldn't have made it to this point without the overwhelming love, loyalty, and support we've received from this amazing community. We would be beyond grateful to be able to continue to serve this community for many years to come."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

International Update: Scottish Bookshops 'Essential', French Book Sales Down Slightly for Year

Yesterday, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon included books among the "essential items" that will still be available for retail click and collect services despite a toughening of Covid-19 restrictions to take effect Saturday, the Bookseller reported.

"We intend to limit the availability and operation of click and collect retail services," Sturgeon said. "Only retailers selling essential items will be allowed to offer click and collect. This will include, for example, clothes and footwear, baby equipment, homeware and books. All other click and collect services must stop."

Jim Taylor, manager of Lighthouse Books in Edinburgh, said: "We like to continue offering click and collect services where we can, as a few of our customers who live alone have commented on the mental health benefit of interacting with another human being, even if it's from the other side of a door! We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our staff and customers, and welcome further restrictions in the interest of public health, even if it means we now need to formulate an appointments system for collections."


Print book sales for French publishers "probably dropped by only 2% in 2020 when compared to the year before," the Bookseller reported. According to preliminary figures provided by Vincent Montagne, president of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l'Edition), the results represent "a surprising stability" and are "encouraging for 2021." He added that comic books had a 6% sales increase in 2020 compared to 2019, while children's educational books rose 4%. Tourism book sales dropped 40%.

In addition, Montagne expressed confidence that the Paris book fair, Livre Paris, "would be held physically at the end of May instead of in its traditional March slot; that the long-awaited book sales tracker mechanism would start operating in France in 2022; and that a fund would be created in 2021 to pay authors whose publishers had folded," the Bookseller wrote.


After Malaysia's king declared a nationwide state of emergency Tuesday to curb the spread of Covid-19, Gerakbudaya Bookshop, Penang, posted on Facebook: "UNBOWED. So, with a cloying inevitability, we are compelled to close our doors again… for two weeks, maybe more. And on a day when a state of emergency is declared in Malaysia--along with a clumsy statement that 'this is not a military coup.' Who would have thought it? We send you our solidarity in these difficult times--that you stay safe and healthy. And perhaps in the hope that you might use some of the time to read… And here's a line from our late friend John Berger to offer hope in overcoming adversity: 'The point about hope is that it is something that occurs in very dark moments. It is like a flame in the darkness'…."


Canadian indie booksellers in Hamilton, Ont., expressed their appreciation for the community support they have received during the pandemic. Dave Kuruc of King W. Books told the CBC: "We've never worked harder…. Everything we're doing just requires so much energy and time. But at the same time, we're still here and we've had a lot of great community support right across the city…. It was amazing actually to hear from folks who are parents and grandparents, who are telling us that their kids were telling them to shop local this year. I thought that was a really fascinating thing to get."

Janet Hoy, co-owner of The City & The City Books, agreed: "We've had such an overwhelming response from the community. They've all been fantastic. We get lots of people coming in saying, 'I just can't shop Amazon this year and I want to support local'…. I think people are just thinking more consciously. They've had a bit more time to think since the pandemic and realizing that there are other choices out there than just the easy look it up and order."  --Robert Gray

MTV Books Relaunching in Partnership with S&S

Christian Trimmer

MTV Entertainment Group is relaunching MTV Books in partnership with Simon & Schuster. Led by Christian Trimmer, the imprint will publish YA titles with an emphasis on developing those properties for television and film, while also working to identify existing properties for book adaptations.

MTV Books will be part of the Branded Publishing Group at S&S Children's Publishing, which is overseen by v-p and publisher Valerie Garfield. Kara Sargent, director of branded publishing, will be the lead editor on the S&S side. Trimmer, who has served as executive editor at S&S and editorial director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, will be based in New York and report to Nina L. Diaz, president of content and chief creative officer for MTV Entertainment.

"I could not be more excited to bring my skills as a book publisher and editor to MTV Entertainment," said Trimmer, adding that he looks forward to working with the "incredible team" that MTV has assembled and developing stories "that surprise and delight audiences."

The previous iteration of MTV Books published such titles as The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton and The Rose That Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur.

"Simon & Schuster has a long history working with MTV, as well as significant experience in developing content that can work across multiple forms of media," said Garfield. "Working with Christian and our MTV colleagues to relaunch the MTV Books brand is the perfect melding of both company's well-established strengths."

Amazon: New Warehouses to Open in Louisiana, Texas, Michigan

Amazon plans to open its first fulfillment center in Louisiana, a one-million-square-foot site in Carencro and scheduled to launch this year. Alicia Boler Davis, the company's v-p of global customer fulfillment, said, "We are grateful for the strong support we've received from local and state leaders as we expand our footprint in Louisiana."

Governor John Bel Edwards said he was "proud to welcome this new Amazon fulfillment center to Louisiana, and I look forward to their continued investment in our great state."

Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux added that the city "is extremely honored and equally blessed to have been chosen for Amazon's first Louisiana-based fulfillment center. The economic impact of this facility cannot be overstated in terms of capital investment, job creation with respectable wages and benefits, and the increased interest in residential housing development."


Amazon will also open two fulfillment centers and a delivery station in San Antonio, Tex. Governor Greg Abbott said: "The Lone Star State is proud to welcome Amazon's expansion in the San Antonio region.... We are proud that Texas' business-friendly model continues to attract innovative companies like Amazon."

Mayor Ron Nirenberg added: "San Antonio's diverse industries, skilled workforce, and sustainable infrastructure make us resilient and we are ready to support significant growth from tech-focused companies like Amazon. We look forward to supporting Amazon as they grow and hire more than 1,500 San Antonians."


Amazon is adding five new facilities in the metro Detroit, Mich., area, including an 823,000-square-foot fulfillment center, as well as a same-day facility, XL fulfillment center and two sortation centers. Amazon's Davis said, "We are grateful for the strong support we've received from local and state leaders as we broaden our footprint throughout Michigan."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan added: "We're thrilled that Amazon selected Detroit for what will be one of the largest fulfillment centers in Michigan."

Obituary Note: Jim Haynes


Jim Haynes

Jim Haynes, who founded the Paperback Bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the late 1950s and was "someone who made extraordinary things happen," died January 6, the Guardian reported. He was 87.

In addition to being Britain's first paperback bookstore, Haynes's shop became "a 'salon,' as he put it, where people could arrange to meet, have coffee, or just chat with the voluble, ever-welcoming proprietor. The Paperback Bookshop also produced plays, and in 1962 Haynes was instrumental in founding the Traverse Theatre. At the same time, in collaboration with the publisher John Calder, he organized the first Edinburgh international book festivals, with Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy and William Burroughs, among others."

Born in Haynesville, La., Haynes joined the U.S. Air Force after high school in 1956, and was eventually stationed in Scotland at an air base in Kirknewton, West Lothian, the Scotsman noted. By 1959, he had obtained an early release from the military and launched the Paperback Bookshop in George Square, filling the shelves "with mass-market titles as well as counter-culture imprints, such as American publisher Barney Rosset's Evergreen series--featuring such writers as Beckett, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Stoppard, Sontag and Malcolm X--a far cry from the other conservative Edinburgh bookshops. The eclectic shop was on a par with Ferlinghetti's City Lights Books in San Francisco and Godwin's Better Books in London; Scotland suddenly found itself hipped to a new beat."

As an author, his books include World Citizen at Home in Paris (2018), Hello, I Love You (1974) and Thanks for Coming! (1984). Under his Handshake Editions and other home-based imprints, he published several titles, including his own Everything Is! (1980) and Workers of the World, Unite and Stop Working! (1978).

Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh international Book Festival, told the Edinburgh Reporter: "Jim was a true trailblazer of the literary, festival and arts worlds…. What we will miss most about Jim is his warm and endearing nature, and his enthusiasm and love for people, conversation and creativity in all its forms. Always a friend before he even knew your name. His was truly a life well lived."


Personnel Changes at Independent Publishers Group

Ilene Schreider has joined Independent Publishers Group as director, special sales. She was previously senior sales manager at Sourcebooks.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Meena Harris on the Today Show

Today Show: Meena Harris, author of Ambitious Girl (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $18.99, 9780316229692).

This Weekend on Book TV: Joe Scarborough

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, January 16
1 p.m. Lance Morrow, author of God and Mammon: Chronicles of American Money (Encounter, $25.99, 9781641770965). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

2 p.m. David McNally, author of Blood and Money: War, Slavery, Finance, and Empire (Haymarket, $20, 9781642591330).

4:50 p.m. Marc Lamont Hill, author of We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest, and Possibility (Haymarket, $12.95, 9781642594539).

6:50 p.m. Jean H. Baker, author of Building America: The Life of Benjamin Henry Latrobe (Oxford University Press, $34.95, 9780190696450). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:40 a.m.)

7:55 p.m. Joe Scarborough, author of Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization (Harper, $29.99, 9780062950499).

10 p.m. Adam Jentleson, author of Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy (Liveright, $26.95, 9781631497773). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. David Shambaugh, author of Where Great Powers Meet: America and China in Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780190914974). (Re-airs Sunday at 5:30 p.m.)

Sunday, January 17
12:15 a.m. Martin J. Sherwin, author of Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis (Knopf, $35, 9780307266880).

3 p.m. Ryan Patrick Hanley, author of Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life (Princeton University Press, $17.95, 9780691179445).

4:30 p.m. Christina Lamb, author of Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women (Scribner, $18.99, 9781501199172).

7:45 p.m. Andre Gregory, co-author of This Is Not My Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, 9780374298548).

11 p.m. Dexter Roberts, author of The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World (St. Martin's Press, $28.99, 9781250089373).

Books & Authors

Awards: Bollingen, Crook's Corner Winners

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge has won the 2021 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, awarded biennially by the Yale University Library through the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library to an American poet for the best book published during the previous two years or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The prize includes a cash award of $165,000.

The judges said, "Mei-mei Berssenbrugge's poetry explores the permeable boundaries between the human and the natural worlds, as she makes palpable her communion with birds, plants, dolphins, stars, and the beyond. Emerging from the ferment of the Basement Workshop, a collective of Asian-American poets, artists, and activists in the 1970s, Berssenbrugge went on to create a visionary ecopoetics that directly confronts our planetary--and human--crisis. With her preternaturally long lines, Berssenbrugge composes a syntax of unfolding vistas, stretching our senses of both the plausible and the possible, bringing new modes of affinity and new paths for freedom into view. Berssenbrugge's entanglements of consciousness and perception have created a lyric that moves away from self-centeredness toward the cosmos. A Treatise on Stars is a far-out star flight--profoundly meditative, extravagant, disarming, open. 'Any soul may distribute itself into a human, a toy poodle, bacteria, an etheric, or quartz crystal.' As readers we are, again and again, enthralled by her radical wagers on poems enacting transformation. 'Writing,' the poet tells us, 'can shift the mechanism of time by changing the record, then changing the event.' "

Berssenbrugge was born in Beijing and grew up in Massachusetts, and is the author of 14 books of poetry, including Hello, the Roses; Empathy; I Love Artists; and A Treatise on Stars. Her collaborations include works in theater, dance, music, and the visual arts.


As a River by Sion Dayson (Jaded Ibis Press) has won the $5,000 Crook's Corner Book Prize, which honors "the best debut novel set in the American South." Organizers described the winner this way: "Set in Georgia, written in spare and lyrical prose, As a River moves back and forth across decades, evoking the mysterious play of memory as it touches upon shame and redemption, despair, and connection. At its heart, it's a novel about our struggles to understand each other, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive."

The Prize is a collaboration between Crook's Corner restaurant, Chapel Hill, N.C., and the Crook's Corner Book Prize Foundation, and was inspired by the prestigious book awards long given by famous "literary cafés" in Paris.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, January 19:

Out of Hounds: A Novel by Rita Mae Brown (Ballantine, $28, 9780593130063) is book 13 in the "Sister" Jane foxhunting mystery series.

Aftershock: A Novel by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell (Hanover Square Press, $27.99, 9781335147295) is the second thriller with forensics expert Jessie Teska.

Homo Irrealis by André Aciman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, 9780374171872) is a collection of essays by the author of Call Me by Your Name.

Ambitious Girl by Meena Harris, illus. by Marissa Valdez (Little, Brown, $18.99, 9780316229692) is a feminist picture book written by the U.S. Vice President-elect's niece.

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780062912640) is the author's prose, poetry and illustrated companion to When You Ask Me Where I'm Going.

Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses (Catapult, $16.95, 9781948226806).

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:

Barely Functional Adult: It'll All Make Sense Eventually by Meichi Ng (Harper Perennial, $17.99, 9780062945594). "In Barely Functional Adult, Meichi Ng seamlessly combines cartoon illustrations with prose to create graphic essays that are hilariously relatable. From moving to a new city to realizing one is enjoying things they previously mocked as old, the character of Barely Functional Adult experiences the changes and terrors of growing up. Ng crafts stories that make the reader feel seen and understood, from impostor syndrome to the nervous stress of starting therapy to an older sister who just doesn't understand why one wouldn't pack for a major move until the day before. I laughed until I cried and then I laughed some more." --Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C.

Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother's Letter to Her Son by Homeira Qaderi (Harper, $26.99, 9780062970312). "This was a very touching, unique read. It's incredible that this story is true, and reading it reminded me of how vastly different my life is from those of women raised in Afghanistan. I feel so privileged to have been given such a great education and to have been allowed and encouraged to educate myself. I am very appreciative of Homeira Qaderi for having the courage and motivation to persist in publishing her work so that we may be graced with it. Very inspiring." --Allie Blake, BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

The Authenticity Project: A Novel by Clare Pooley (Penguin Books, $17, 9781984878632). "Sometimes, especially in this digital age, we get caught up in the idea that while our lives are a mess, everyone else has got it together. And maybe--as Clare Pooley explores in The Authenticity Project--if we were all just honest about our insecurities and difficulties and worries, it would be easier for people to form stronger bonds. This is a charming book with a sweet love story, but at its heart it's a reminder that we need each other more than we need our phones." --Melissa Fox, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan.

For Ages 4 to 8
Wreck This Picture Book by Keri Smith (Dial Books, $17.99, 9780593111024). "When we look at a worn and frayed book, our first thought isn't that the book wasn't taken care of, it's that it was loved. It's been around. Seen things. Wreck This Picture Book joyfully and playfully suggests that books are meant to go with you everywhere, to be companions or accomplices on all your adventures. Books are meant to be loved. Hard." --Alana Haley, Schuler Books, Grand Rapids, Mich.

For Teen Readers
The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein (Little, Brown, $18.99, 9781368012584). "Elizabeth Wein yet again humanizes history by taking the true story of the Allies capturing the first Enigma machine in World War II and using that background to tell the deeply personal stories of three disparate young people who find each other in the midst of war. With characters familiar and new, Wein's story captures both the danger and turbulence of a world at war, and the moments of happiness that still emerge in spite of that." --Mackenzie Van Engelenhoven, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob

Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob by Russell Shorto (W.W. Norton, $26.95 hardcover, 272p., 9780393245585, February 2, 2021)

Russell Shorto is known for writing about the past. Over six nonfiction books, he's tackled narrative histories about Jesus (Gospel Truth), philosophers (Descartes' Bones), science and religion (Saints and Madmen), the world's most liberal city (Amsterdam), the 17th century Dutch colony in Manhattan (The Island at the Center of the World) and notable founders of the U.S. (Revolution Song). In Smalltime, Shorto intimately mines his own life, his "normal small-town America childhood," contrasted against the history of his Sicilian American family and their ties to the mob. He delivers a beautifully rendered, spellbinding saga about family secrets and taboos.

Shorto's inspiration to explore his own personal life was piqued when he and his extended family paid an after-Christmas visit to a distant cousin, once a successful jazz singer in Las Vegas who "came home" to Pennsylvania and continued to croon lounge songs publicly with a "local geriatric combo." At a break in his musical set, Cousin Frank, now in his late 70s, casually asked Shorto when he was finally going to write about his grandfather, Shorto's father's father, and his connection to the mob. That question sparked the reluctant Shorto to learn more about his grandfather--a man for whom Shorto was named--who was once a mob boss in Johnstown, Pa., when it was a bustling steel mill town. While Shorto was still a young boy, his notorious grandfather had already been ostracized from the family, his name unspoken. Why?

The journey Shorto takes to trace his grandfather's life is eventful, entertaining and enlightening. He investigates his grandfather's origins, who he was, and how and why he came to establish a criminal network of gambling. The local empire was founded in the 1950s and '60s--from backroom card tables to pinball machines to scratch-off games akin to today's lottery--and primarily thrived off factory workers in search of better lives.

Shorto's now elderly and ailing father, who had been estranged from his gangster father for years, figures prominently in the story of a once-powerful man--a man riddled with contradictions--whose life ended in tragedy. In pursuing recollections of the past and unearthing long-buried family secrets, Shorto and his father reconcile and deepen their own relationship on the way to crafting a thorough, immensely moving and empathetic portrait of Shorto's namesake, and how his Sicilian American immigrant experiences shaped the course of history. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: A deeply engrossing portrait of a Sicilian American family with a connection to the mob by a member of that family.

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