Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 28, 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


ABA Board Nominations Set; Bradley Graham Slated to Become President

The board of directors of the American Booksellers Association has approved the nominating committee's recommendations for the upcoming board elections, as reported in Bookselling This Week.

The board also selected current ABA vice-president Bradley Graham of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., to be president for a two-year term, replacing Jamie Fiocco of Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C., whose two-year terms as president ends this year. And Kelly Estep of Carmichael's Bookstore in Louisville, Ky., and Christine Onorati of WORD Bookstores in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J., have been selected as co-vice president/secretary.

Bradley Graham

In addition, Michelle Malonzo of Changing Hands in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., is joining the board to serve the remainder of Chris Morrow's two-year term, which ends next year. Morrow, who owns Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Manchester Center, Vt., is leaving the board for personal reasons.

Recommended to stand for election to three-year terms (2021-2024) are:

  • Danny Caine of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., who will be a new board member.
  • Jake Cumsky-Whitlock of Solid State Books in Washington, D.C., and Melanie Knight of Books Inc. in San Francisco, Calif., who were appointed to the board last September, following bylaws changes that expanded the board to 13 directors from 11 and required at least four directors to be Black, Indigenous, or People of Color. These will be their first three-year terms.
  • Kelly Estep of Carmichael's Bookstore in Louisville, Ky., for a second three-year term.
  • Angela Maria Spring of Duende District in Albuquerque, N.Mex., and Washington, D.C., also for a second three-year term.

An election ballot will be sent to ABA members via e-mail at the end of March and must be returned by April 27. Members can petition to have names of other candidates added to the ballot for officers or directors; write-in votes are also permitted.

Board changes will be part of the program at the ABA's annual membership meeting and town hall, which will be held virtually on Thursday, May 27, 2-4 p.m. Eastern.

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

AAP Board Changes: Michael Pietsch Becomes Vice Chairman

At the Association of American Publishers, Brian Napack, president and CEO of John Wiley & Sons, has been re-elected chairman of the board. Michael Pietsch, CEO of Hachette Book Group, has been elected vice chairman. In addition, the board elected Jeremy North, managing director for books publishing at Taylor & Francis, to continue as treasurer. The other member of the board's executive committee is Tim Bozik, president of global product and North American courseware for Pearson and a former AAP chairman.

Brian Napack

Napack commented: "A vibrant, independent publishing industry plays an essential role in our democracy, and this year, more than most, it will play critical role in the healing of our nation. It is a privilege to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with AAP and its member companies to pursue our critical mission, one that enables discovery, learning, creative expression and, overall, the advancement of society worldwide."

Michael Pietsch

Pietsch said, "AAP's work in promoting copyright protections, free expression, and fair markets has never been more important. It is my honor to serve AAP's membership and to work with such a committed board of executives to help publishers, authors, and readers to thrive."

AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante said, "We are grateful to Brian Napack and Michael Pietsch for accepting these leadership posts in service to the industry, as AAP continues to advocate for laws and policies that incentivize the lawful publication of books, research journals, and education solutions worldwide."

GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

How Bookstores Are Coping: As Busy as Can Be; 'Gobsmacked'

Roxanne Coady, owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison and Middletown, Conn., reported that as the year went on, the store got "closer and closer to budget." Sales in December 2020 were actually comparable to pre-pandemic numbers, but the store was ultimately still "a little bit under" for the year. March and April were so bad, Coady explained, that the store spent the rest of the year "digging out of a ditch." Generally speaking, what's suffering most at the store is the events schedule. While online events are fun, they do not drive sales the way in-person events did. 

Coady and her team have found that customers are "very comfortable with the protocols we've put in place," which include using numbered shopping baskets as a way of managing capacity. Customers take a basket when they arrive, and if there are no baskets available, they're asked to wait to enter the store (all baskets are sanitized between uses). Given the restrictions the store has to operate under, it is as "busy as it can be."

Like many bookstores around the country, R.J. Julia has had to do a "much better job on our website" since the pandemic began. Coady praised her staff for finding new ways to merchandise effectively on the website and for making extensive use of sales data as well as Google analytics in those efforts. On the subject of online merchandising, Coady said the initial struggle was figuring out how best to convince online customers that a given book was right for them when browsing was not possible. Themed book bundles did very well on the website, she added, especially over the holidays.

Coady called her staff "heroic" for the work they did throughout 2020, saying "you would think everybody who worked there was an owner." They were dedicated to the store and to the community, and their "good nature and good will" made customers feel safe and at ease. In her year-end letter to staff, Coady wrote that back in March, when she was panicking about keeping everyone employed and the store open, she could not have believed what the store would accomplish in 2020. In addition to all of their bookselling work, they also launched the Read to Grow book drive for children, which has expanded to six cities throughout Connecticut.

Looking ahead into 2021, Coady said she's "feeling pretty optimistic" about the months to come. She noted that instead of doing a yearly strategic plan as she usually does, she did a first-quarter strategic plan that will see the store through the end of March. At that point Coady hopes to be able to make a solid plan for the rest of the year. Musing on the vaccination efforts, she said people will start to be "euphoric" as more and more people get vaccinated, and there is a concern that people will be so happy finally to be "unleashed" that book sales may take a bit of a hit. That, however, is not a "big worry."

And while the first few months of the year are generally slow, this January "has not been any slower than historical Januaries," and has so far been "sturdier" than January 2020. While that's not necessarily predictive of what February and March will be like, it is a cause for optimism.


In Flagstaff, Ariz., Bright Side Bookshop has entered a "new normal" during the pandemic, said store owner Lisa Lamberson. The store is open for limited browsing, with no more than 10 customers allowed in at a time; curbside pick-up and direct-to-home shipping are both still available.

Sales this holiday season were up nearly 40% over the previous year, which Lamberson attributed to the "amazing" amount of support the store received from local customers. She and her team found that their customers were more "buyers than shoppers" this holiday season, meaning that if people were going to make the effort to mask up and wait in line, they were going to "purchase over browse." She added that there must have been "many, many happy locals" on holiday mornings who had received plenty of books, puzzles and other gifts.

Lamberson reported that the trend of sales being up has carried into January, with this month being up nearly 70% over January 2020--and that, she said, was a "solid January on its own." She is "gobsmacked and thankful" for not only the store's supporters but also its "intrepid bookselling crew." --Alex Mutter

Soho Press: Black Dove by Colin McAdam

International Update: Canadian 2020 Book Sales, SDG Book Club Africa

A dramatic decrease in Canadian book sales last spring, as the Covid-19 pandemic initially shut down physical bookstores, was followed by several months of gradual recovery, though not quite enough to avoid a decline in sales for the year. On a recent edition of the BookNet Canada Podcast, project manager Monique Mongeon spoke with marketing & communications manager Ainsley Sparkes about book sales in the Canadian market during 2020, according to SalesData figures.

Mongeon observed that "at the start of physical distancing there was a swift drop in sales as physical store locations closed across the country, after March 15, and sales continued dropping very steadily until the lowest sales week of the year, April 5, 2020. Between March 15 and April 5, sales dropped approximately 37% in all markets."

After April 5, however, sales started trending up again, returning close to 2019 sales numbers by June, and by mid-July book sales started outpacing 2019 numbers, a trend that continued through to early September. And while book buyers got off to an early start with their holiday season buying, they did not purchase more books for the period than in previous years. Comparing the eight-week holiday buying seasons in 2020 and 2019, sales were nearly flat across those two years.

"So despite those crackerjack summer months and that early holiday shopping, 2020 did close with lower sales compared to 2019--a drop of about 4%," Mongeon said. "The lost sales during the early stages of the pandemic in March, between mid-March and early April and then the slower recovery up through May, the sales were never fully recovered over the course of the rest of the year."


Book sector organizations from across Africa will come together and commit to augmenting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Book Club with a collection of English, French, Arabic and Kiswahili books about the different goals for children, according to the International Publishers Association. The book club is launching April 23, on World Book Day, and will feature African books that deal with the themes of the SDGs.

SDG Book Club Africa follows the recent launches of clubs in Norway, Indonesia, Portugal and Brazil. The world's publishing community, through the IPA, supports the SDGs as an investment in future generations of leaders, innovators and agents of change.

"There is no doubt that good quality books at all levels can contribute immensely to the attainment of the SDGs all over the world by providing knowledge on the goals and what steps can be taken to attain them," said Samuel Kolawole, chairman of the African Publishers Network. "For Africa, availability and access to such books that are indigenous to Africa and to which Africans can relate, will go a long way in ensuring that the continent of Africa makes good progress towards achieving the SDGs. That is why the efforts by all book stakeholders across the continent, in partnership with the UN, to organize an SDG Book Club for Africa deserves commendation and should be supported by all."

Dare Oluwatuyi, president of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria, added: "We are delighted to be part of this SDG Book Club project that in our view would deliver two, among other, wins. The first is a greater emphasis on the culture of reading and writing in Africa and the second, a more impactful grassroots communication of the laudable goals of the UN's SDGs. We similarly encourage others to support it."


"Would you trust a dating app based on your bookshelf?" The European and International Booksellers Federation's latest Newsflash reported that Dutch publisher AW Bruna "is experimenting with a new dating app, matching singles looking for partners based on their bookshelves. Bookiewookie takes the love of reading to a whole new level--suggesting potential love matches based on the books that you both enjoy." --Robert Gray


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

Daniel Nayeri: 2021 Michael L. Printz Award Winner

Daniel Nayeri was born in Iran and spent several years as a refugee before immigrating to Oklahoma at age eight with his family. He is the publisher of Odd Dot, an imprint of Macmillan. He has served on the CBC diversity committee and the CBC panel committee. Nayeri's autobiographical novel, Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story), published by Levine Querido, won the 2021 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

Congratulations, Daniel! How does it feel to win this award now? And for this specific story?

The day it was announced, I felt two cavities suddenly show up in my molars. It could have been my steady diet of pastries over the last year. But it could have also been the universe saying, "easy there, buddy, you're throwing off the joy balance." And, you know what, that seems fair. Another way to answer this question is that it felt great! And for this story, the story of four generations in my family? Even better! It was joyous leaping in the air with unreserved guffaws and belly-laughter. Wait. Hold on, I think my nose is bleeding. 

Do you think that, as both a creator and someone who works in the publishing industry, this award means something different to you?

Yes, I think my knowledge of the industry helps me understand the sheer improbability of it all. I know the staggering number of titles published every year, the difficulty of getting a starred review and all the work that goes into a single publicity piece. I know how much it costs to have deckled edges, the pub dates to avoid and the fact that when it comes down to it, any given piece of art is nigh incomparable to another. As a writer, I wish I didn't know these things. The metaphor in my head is that it feels like a surgeon having to do surgery on his own kid. Sure, I know the process. But my goodness, I don't want to think about those decisions for my own dreams. I suppose what I'm saying is that I'm particularly aware that any small attention a book receives is a gift.

In a previous interview about this book, you said Khosrou, the narrator, "is me, and so he bears many of the flaws of my character." Is there something resonant or affirming (or any other word that seems appropriate) about receiving an award for highlighting that voice?

Well, in one sense it could be read as everyone saying, "that was, indeed, a great depiction of all the flaws in Daniel's character!" To which I would say, "Yes, thanks, I was not unaware of them." But in another sense--probably the one you were intending--there was something reassuring about the fact that this story I had been keeping with me all my life, polishing in the quiet hours and researching and revising and reliving, was all worth sharing. Beyond that, I become irrelevant, and the book goes out into the world to befriend some reader, and I hope they have a meaningful and useful conversation with one another.

You also described the format of the book: "Khosrou tells these stories--his family history, Persian folklore and the history of the country--to a fundamentally skeptical audience of classmates. This is the dynamic of Scheherazade in the One Thousand and One Nights.... If she fails, she dies. If he fails, he dies the way kids die in middle school. He's hated and given wedgies until kingdom come." How do you think Khosrou would incorporate this accomplishment into his life story?

That's a great question. The Khosrou of the book still has years of growing up to do before he can imagine himself safe enough, or be strong enough not to care, about putting himself on such a public stage. He still has to struggle with hiding everything he loves from a world he perceives as hunting for them. But he'll prevail, I'm sure. I suppose it's impossible for me to imagine him doing anything other than what I did, which is that he'll dedicate it all to his mom. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Jacqueline Woodson: 2021 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner

Jacqueline Woodson is the recipient of a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the 2018 Children's Literature Legacy Award and she was the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor and the NAACP Image Award. She also wrote the adult books Red at the Bone and Another Brooklyn. Her dozens of books for young readers include The Day You Begin and Harbor Me; Newbery Honor winners Feathers, Show Way and After Tupac and D Foster; and the picture book Each Kindness, which won the Jane Addams Children's Book Award. Earlier this week, Woodson won the 2021 Coretta Scott King Author Award--her third--for Before the Ever After, published by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Congratulations! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for Shelf Awareness.

Thanks so much. Honored to be receiving this award for Before the Ever After.

You have been a CSK Author Award honoree five times and, now, an Author Award Winner three times. You've won so many awards and received so many accolades--is there anything special / different / exciting / affecting about winning this award this year?

What's special is this award is for this book. And yes, even though I've won a number of awards, each book I write is different so that the awards that came before have nothing to do with it. The CSK for Miracle's Boys is very different from the CSK for Before the Ever After. In terms of this moment in time--Wow! I don't even know what to say. I've sadly had lots of experience with winning awards during tumultuous times so... Well, I guess this isn't new. It's part of a continuum. :)

Few authors are able to write bittersweet the way you do. What inspired you to write Before the Ever After? And for this age group?

It was time. I think one of the biggest inspirations was my friend Toshi Reagon, who could tell you every stat about most football players and watched every game. I mean, she's brilliant anyway, but on the subject of football, she was off the hook. And then, she stopped. She was done. She couldn't do it anymore. The racism, the demolition of Black and Brown bodies, the selling and trading of Black and Brown bodies... And it started me to thinking deeper about the game. And in that deeper thinking, I wanted to really investigate what it means to deeply love a thing, to have that thing allow you to be a certain way in the world and then...

Was there anything about the experience of writing this book that was new to you? Anything that surprised you, excited you, worried you?

I worried that I wouldn't be able to tell the story with a deep empathy. I didn't want what I knew to get in the way of my seeing the many dimensions of what it meant to dream of being and then to become Zachariah 44.

You've had more than enough experience in publishing to know the system--what was it like to have this book published in 2020? How was it different?

Jeez--I'm an author a lot of people know so I can't even imagine what it's like to be a new author publishing in 2020. It's rough. I mean, 2020 was a HUGE year for me. And a very, very quiet one for me in the world.

A thing I have always loved is, when I've heard you speak, is that your focus is always on children and you are completely dedicated to the child reader. How do you hope this book touches the middle-grade reader?

I truly hope they read it and see some part of themselves in it and also get a sense of what I'm trying to say with Before the Ever After. I think they will. Young people are so whip-smart. I think it may take a while to settle with some but in the end, I hope/think it will be a long-term conversation. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Obituary Note: Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman, the historical fiction author best known for her Plantagenet Series, died last Friday at the age of 75. 

Penman wrote her first novel while she was still a student. Entitled The Sunne in Splendour, it focused on Richard III and the War of the Roses. The manuscript, however, was stolen from her car, and Penman could not bring herself to rewrite the book for years. Eventually, while working full-time as a tax attorney, Penman did rewrite it, and The Sunne in Splendour was finally published in 1982.

After that, she quit her job to write full time, publishing the Welsh trilogy (Here Be Dragons; Falls the Shadow; The Reckoning), about Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, grandson of Llewelyn the Great, and then the Plantagenet Series, about King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. That series began with When Christ and His Saints Sleep, and the second book in the series, Time and Chance, became her first New York Times bestselling novel. While she initially envisioned the Plantagenet series as a trilogy, she continued the story with two more novels focused on Richard the Lionheart, the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. 

Penman also wrote a series of historical mysteries featuring Justin de Quincy, a fictional character who works for Eleanor of Aquitaine. The first of these books, The Queens Man, was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery. Her last novel was Beyond the Sea, published in 2020.


Cool Idea of the Day: Rent a Bookshop for 'Covid-Friendly Date Night'

The Head & the Hand bookstore, Philadelphia, Pa., is offering the "cutest Covid-friendly" curated date night for $65, which includes "a table for two and 90 minutes alone in the bookstore," WPVI reported. More than 35 couples have taken advantage of Date Night.

"We'll put your name on it and the date you're here in the store and if it's an anniversary or a birthday, we'll add that on there," said Claire Moncla, creative director of the Head & the Hand, who created the initiative.

"People want curated experiences and especially during Covid, they want those to be safe, and I felt like I, for myself, what would I want to do," she said. "We're a really small business and we limit the amount of foot traffic that we get in here during Covid, so I thought this is a little bit safer than a restaurant being indoors because there's less foot traffic and you're here by yourselves.... I love hosting and I haven't been able to really do that since Covid, so this is really scratching an itch for me and I'd love to expand it."

Blyth Meier Leaving Porchlight Book Company

Effective tomorrow, Blyth Meier is leaving her position as marketing director of Porchlight Book Company (the former 1-800-CEO-READ) to begin working as a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer as well as join the Milwaukee Health Department's Covid-19 response team to help roll out the vaccine in the area. During her six years at Porchlight, she also reviewed many nonfiction titles and was a juror for the company's annual Business Book Awards.

During the transition, Porchlight operations director Ryan Schleicher will temporarily take on PR duties.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Cicely Tyson on Live with Kelly and Ryan

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Cicely Tyson, author of Just as I Am: A Memoir (HarperCollins, $28.99, 9780062931061).

Nora Roberts Defends Casting Choice for Brazen Virtue

Nora Roberts "isn't interested in what Internet critics have to say," especially about the decision to cast Alyssa Milano as the lead character in an upcoming Netflix film adaptation of Brazen VirtueEntertainment Weekly reported that "not all of Roberts's fans were happy with the news, with many taking to the author's Facebook page to protest Milano's casting because of the actress' openly liberal views on social media. The comments got so out of hand that Roberts was compelled to respond to the backlash personally."

"I'm delighted Ms. Milano's been cast in the adaptation of Brazen Virtue for Netflix," Roberts said. "To say I was stunned and appalled by some of the comments regarding the announcement on my Facebook page is a wild understatement. I spoke my piece, posted it publicly, and stand by it and Ms. Milano. To those who state they'll never read my work again due to differing political viewpoints and opinions, or because a talented, experienced actor will play a role, I can only say that's their choice. I believe Ms. Milano and I will survive it."

Monika Mitchell (Virgin RiverThe Knight Before Christmas) will direct the project from a screenplay by Suzette Couture, Donald Martin and Edithe Swensen.

"I'm a liberal Democrat. Always have been, always will be," Roberts posted on Facebook. "And as one, I've always believed everyone has a right to their political beliefs, and has a right to express their opinions. But I don't have to tolerate insults and ugliness on my page.... Others have used outright slurs against an actress, while claiming she should keep her opinions to herself.

"Some will never read me again because Milano will headline this adaption. One reader stated she intended to BURN all my books in her collection for this choice of actress. Think about that. Burning books. Get a visual? I sure do. Another claims she can only support 'like-minded' artists. Really? I only imagine the books, songs, movies I'd have missed if I felt this way and refused to read, watch, listen to those who contributed to or performed them who hold different political viewpoints from my own.... Watch the movie when it comes out, or don't. But lobbing nastiness at an actress or threatening me doesn't do anything but illustrate your own limitations."

This Weekend on Book TV: Charles M. Blow

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 30
5 p.m. Elliott Young, author of Forever Prisoners: How the United States Made the World's Largest Immigrant Detention System (Oxford University Press, $34.95, 9780190085957).

6:45 p.m. Donald Johnson, author of Occupied America: British Military Rule and the Experience of Revolution (University of Pennsylvania Press, $34.95, 9780812252545).

7:50 p.m. Dan Morain, author of Kamala's Way: An American Life (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781982175764). (Re-airs Sunday at 4:30 p.m.)

8:55 p.m. Helen Andrews, author of Boomers: The Men and Women Who Promised Freedom and Delivered Disaster (Sentinel, $27, 9780593086759). (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)

10 p.m. Charles M. Blow, author of The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto (Harper, $26.99, 9780062914668). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan, author of The Great Demographic Reversal: Ageing Societies, Waning Inequality, and an Inflation Revival (Palgrave Macmillan, $29.99, 9783030426569). (Re-airs Sunday at 7:50 p.m.)

Sunday, January 31
12:10 a.m. Paul Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick, authors of Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.'s Life and Win the 1960 Election (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28, 9781250155702). (Re-airs Sunday at 3:15 p.m.)

1:30 a.m. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, author of Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501166730).

6:40 p.m. Michael E. Mann, author of The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet (PublicAffairs, $29, 9781541758230), at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

10 p.m. Beth Bechky, author of Blood, Powder, and Residue: How Crime Labs Translate Evidence into Proof (Princeton University Press, $29.95, 9780691183589), at Murder by the Book in Houston, Tex.

Books & Authors

Awards: Jewish Book Winners

Jewish Book Council has announced the winners of the 2020 National Jewish Book Awards. To see the full list of winners and finalists, click here.

Among the winners were:
Jewish Book of the Year, Everett Family Foundation Award: Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (Basic Books)
JJ Greenberg Memorial Award in Fiction: Apeirogon by Colum McCann (Random House)
Book Club Award, The Miller Family Award in Memory of Helen Dunn Weinstein and June Keit Miller: The Lost Shtetl by Max Gross (HarperVia)
Autobiography & Memoir, The Krauss Family Award In Memory of Simon & Shulamith (Sofi) Goldberg: When Time Stopped by Ariana Neumann (Scribner)
Biography, in Memory of Sara Berenson Stone: From Left to Right: Lucy S. Dawidowicz, the New York Intellectuals, and the Politics of Jewish History by Nancy Sinkoff (Wayne State University Press)
Food Writing & Cookbooks, Jane and Stuart Weitzman Family Award: Now for Something Sweet by Monday Morning Cooking Club (HarperCollins)
Berru Award for Poetry, in Memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash: Nautilus and Bone by Lisa Richter (Frontenac House)

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 2:

Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine, $28.99, 9780525618553) is the 36th thriller with Alex Delaware.

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9781328974624) explores food systems throughout human civilization.

The Survivors: A Novel by Jane Harper (Flatiron, $27.99, 9781250232427) is a mystery set in a small coastal town.

Bad Habits by Amy Gentry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780358126546) is a psychological thriller about an ambitious professor.

Blink of an Eye by Roy Johansen and Iris Johansen (Grand Central, $28, 9781538762882) is the eighth mystery with Kendra Michaels.

Floating in a Most Peculiar Way: A Memoir by Louis Chude-Sokei (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9781328841582) is the memoir of a pan-African childhood spent in Biafra, Jamaica and Los Angeles.

Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy by Rachel Ricketts (Atria, $27, 9781982151270) is a spiritual look at racial justice.

Chronic: The Hidden Cause of the Autoimmune Pandemic and How to Get Healthy Again by Steven Phillips and Dana Parish (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780358064718) investigates the causes of many chronic conditions.

Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas (Currency, $28, 9780593135280) advocates using humor for business purposes.

Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen (Mariner, $15.99, 9780358272557) is a debut short story collection.

U UP? by Catie Disabato (Melville House, $17.99, 9781612198910).

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 Fortunate Ones: A Novel by Ed Tarkington (Algonquin, $26.95, 9781616206802). "Ed Tarkington is the mastermind behind this tender tale of love and betrayal, politics and social divide. A teenage boy growing up with a single mom in a low-income area of Nashville receives a mysterious scholarship offer to attend an elite private school for boys. Charlie Boykin is now in the midst of the children of billionaires and socialites, and the trajectory of his life is altered forever. The reader is left to ask, 'Was it all worth it?' This is a character-driven novel with a storyline as opulent as the mansions within." --Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, N.C.

A Crooked Tree: A Novel by Una Mannion (Harper, $27.99, 9780063049840). "A Crooked Tree is the delicately woven story of a single mother's bad decision to kick one of her children out of the car miles from home, and how that decision affects an entire network of friends and neighbors throughout the summer. Gorgeously told and intricately written, this hardly seems the work of a debut novelist; Una Mannion will be one to watch, and A Crooked Tree already has me anticipating her next book!" --Mary O'Malley, Skylark Bookshop, Columbia, Mo.

The Inland Sea: A Novel by Madeleine Watts (Catapult, $16.95, 9781646220175). "This character study of a woman's reckless year while taking time away from college and answering phones for Australia's emergency response system cuts deep. Madeleine Watts' extraordinary debut novel takes us from oceans to bathtubs, from rivers flowing in the wrong direction toward a mythical sea to apocalyptic firestorms. The writing is stunningly powerful and insightful. I highly recommend this." --Dave Shallenberger, Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga.

For Ages 4 to 8
Beak & Ally: Unlikely Friends by Norm Feuti (HarperAlley, $12.99, 9780063021570). "What do you do when a noisy bird named Beak lands on your nose? You'll probably grumble but you just might make a friend. Although (as mentioned) a noisy one. Not to mention one who is loyal and fun to be around (even if they only know one song). A great book about friendship, sticking together, and how sometimes quiet is good, but so is a noisy friend." --Jeanette Sessions, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt.

For Ages 9 to 12
Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury, $18.99, 9781681199443). "This incredibly well-constructed book of historical poetry by many women, Golden Shovel poetry by the book's author, and art by Black illustrators is ideal for all ages even though it's listed as a middle-grade book. My kindergartener loved looking at the pictures and talking about what they mean, and I found so much meaning in the Harlem Renaissance poetry as well as in Nikki Grimes' works based on those poems. This is a must-have book for families, school libraries, and educational settings." --Emily Autenrieth, A Seat at the Table Books, Elk Grove, Calif.

For Teen Readers
One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite (Inkyard Press, $18.99, 9781335145802). "Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite have done it again, and more, with their sophomore novel, One of the Good Ones. This book kept me up into the early morning hours, furiously flipping pages, needing to know where things would end up for the Smith sisters. The story takes you on a real journey, jumping through history and back again, dissecting race relations in America with an unflinching eye; it is beautifully written, heartbreaking, and disturbing, yet ultimately hopeful. I can't recommend it enough."  --Cristina Russell, Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro (Grove Press, $26 hardcover, 9780802158208, February 9, 2021)

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing is another compulsively readable, highly impressive work of reportage from Sonia Faleiro, author of the acclaimed Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars. The Good Girls investigates the deaths of a pair of young girls, Padma and Lalli, in a small village in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India. The girls' disappearance one night sets off a chain of events where "who they were, and what had happened to them, was already less important than what their disappearance meant to the status of the people left behind." When the girls are found hanging from a tree, Faleiro shows how their families' search for justice became entangled in some of modern India's most complicated and intractable problems.

The Good Girls places particular emphasis on the threats of sexual and physical violence faced by Indian women. While the alleged rape and murder of Padma and Lalli did garner media attention for its sensationalist elements, the book's subtitle indicates that their fates were, in some ways, disturbingly ordinary. Faleiro puts the girls' deaths in context by referencing cases such as the horrific Delhi bus rape that shocked the nation and prompted reforms. Those reforms fell woefully short, however: "women in India were at a greater risk of sexual violence and human trafficking than women in war-torn Afghanistan and Syria." Padma and Lalli, who lived in an impoverished rural village scarcely changed by India's economic growth, lived particularly constrained lives, and their utter lack of options contributed heavily to their tragic fate.

Faleiro carefully reconstructs the investigation into the girls' deaths in all its dysfunctional detail, indicting a justice system that was woefully undertrained and unprofessional; a sweeper performed the girls' post-mortems with butcher knives. Conflicts over caste and politics further complicated the investigation, with the apparent truth of the matter coming to light only after dozens of false starts helped wild theories proliferate. While Faleiro has used extensive interviews to portray Padma and Lalli as more than the symbols they became--unearthing their hopes, dreams and familial conflicts in almost novelistic detail--the book is equally valuable as a document of the many complicated, interwoven issues that face India. The truth behind what happened to Padma and Lalli is more banal than it might at first seem, but no less horrific in its implications. The Good Girls is excellent, deeply felt nonfiction. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader 

Shelf Talker: The Good Girls impressively reconstructs the dysfunctional investigation into the deaths of two girls in a tiny village, providing a window into the many threats faced by Indian women.

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