Also published on this date: Monday, February 1 Dedicated Issue: Running Press Kids

Shelf Awareness for Monday, February 1, 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


Madison, Wis.'s Room of One's Own Moving from Downtown

Room of One's Own's current location.

A Room of One's Own in Madison, Wis., is moving from downtown to Atwood on the east side of the Wisconsin capital, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The bookstore's building is being purchased by a developer for a proposed housing and retail development, requiring the demolition of the building. Although the development has not been approved, "regardless of what happens with the redevelopment, there is no longer an option for us to stay here," A Room of One's Own said.

Gretchen Treu, who owns A Room of One's Own with Wes Lukes and fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss, told Tone Madison that the store is close to finalizing a lease that will be a "much more stable situation." She said she couldn't say yet where the location is, but she anticipates moving this spring or early summer. "It's going to be really exciting," she said. "It's going to be a much more stable situation."

Founded in 1975 as a feminist bookstore, A Room of One's Own has had several locations in downtown Madison and has been in its current spot in about 6,000 square feet of space since 2011. The likely future store will be slightly smaller, leading to a tightening up of its used book selection, Treu said, but "it's really beautiful. There's gonna be a lot of good natural light in it."

Treu added, "I'm looking forward to hearing people's memories of this space, because obviously I have a lot of them. I was a baby queer who came to Room when I was 15, and like, bought a Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist chocolate bar to give to my first girlfriend, that kind of thing. This has been an important business to me for all of my adolescence and adulthood."

Treu and Lukes, who are managing owners, and Rothfuss, a silent partner, bought the store in 2018 from Nancy Geary and Sandi Thorkildson. Treu and Lukes were longtime employees.

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

Creating Conversations, Redondo Beach, Calif., Closing Storefront

Creating Conversations in Redondo Beach, Calif., will close its storefront on Friday, February 26, owners Terry Gilman and Maryelizabeth Yturralde announced.

In a message to customers, they explained that a series of challenges led them to this point. After the pandemic forced Creating Conversations to cancel all of its 2020 events, they decided to focus on the bookstore and website sales, as well as virtual events. Later, the store flooded and thousands of books were damaged, and last week the store was vandalized and broken into.

Despite the storefront's closure, Creating Conversations will continue its virtual event programming and will sell books through its website. Beginning today, February 1, everything--books, sidelines and greeting cards--in the store are on sale.

"We will continue to host a wide range of author programs," they wrote. "We hope to be here for the foreseeable future doing what we do best as booksellers: working with our partners to create valuable programming, selling books on our website, and making great book recommendations."

After operating for years without a storefront, Creating Conversations opened its bricks-and-mortar location in 2018 as a partner of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, which continues to operate in San Diego under separate ownership. (Jenni Marchisotto and Matthew Berger bought Mysterious Galaxy in late 2019.)

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: Mental Health Days; Breathing Room

In Bozeman, Mont., Country Bookshelf has been open for in-store browsing since June, reported owner Ariana Paliobagis. The store is also offering curbside pick-up, contactless in-store pick-up and delivery options, and Paliobagis noted that the store's shortened hours give the team enough time to handle online orders as well as clean and shelve without having to dodge browsing customers.

Thanks to a "super science-smart staffer," Country Bookshelf was an early adopter of masks. There are multiple hand sanitizer stations throughout the store, acrylic barriers at the registers and everything has been rearranged to make physical distancing easier. The store allows no more than 25 people in at a time, which is lower than the state-mandated maximum. And even though it's winter, the windows are open all day every day and the door is kept open as often as possible to help with ventilation.

Paliobagis also moved the staff break room to a larger space, set up a dedicated pack and ship area, and created workstations throughout the store. Throughout the pandemic the store has not had to lay off any staff or cut hours or pay, for which Paliobagis said she is "so grateful." They've also been able to keep everyone on the store's health insurance and have given raises and holiday bonuses. The store has also been offering periodic mental health days, with every full-time employee so far having three or four extra paid days off. 

The community has noticed how careful the store has been, Paliobagis continued, and they thank her and her team for that regularly. There have been some exceptions, of course, including a screaming woman who had to be escorted out of the store while she threatened to call her lawyer. She was all bluster, and the customers in the store "just watched her tantrum in disbelief."

Paliobagis plans to keep pick-up and delivery going after the pandemic ends, and she said the store will not be doing any in-person events until at least 2022. Virtual events, including the Books in Common NW series done in partnership with two other Pacific Northwest stores, have become a "robust" part of the business. School book fairs will be virtual for the foreseeable future, and while they've gone well, they generally do not come close to in-person numbers. The store also has no plans to do off-site events, either, but Paliobagis and her team are figuring out ways to keep working with their various nonprofit and organizational partners.

Holiday sales were "crazy and nonstop," and, Paliobagis added, the store was up 27% in the fourth quarter. About 25% of sales came through the store's website, with another 10% via phone and e-mail. Sales were more evenly spread throughout the season and Country Bookshelf did have to put out the "At Capacity" sign frequently. After a "scary spring," the store ended the year with an 11% gain in sales over 2019, with the caveat being that now every sale costs more time and energy to make. 2021 has gotten off to a strong start, with January sales up by 28% over January 2020. While Paliobagis doesn't expect February and March to continue that trajectory, she does think the store will "continue to see modest growth reflecting the growth of our community."


Amy Thomas, owner of Pegasus Books in Berkeley and Oakland, Calif., reported that the three Pegasus locations are open to only a very few customers at a time each day, with the bulk of the store's business coming from online sales and pick-up orders. The stores are still observing the strict safety protocols that the team put in place in the early days of the pandemic. And while sales are still down "dramatically," operating costs are down enough to "make the math work for now." November and December sales, Thomas added, were much more robust than the team expected, and Pegasus was able to "catch up nicely" with its vendors.

Pegasus Books currently has a staff of 20 people, compared to 35 in the pre-pandemic days, and the stores are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day; pre-Covid, it was 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thomas said she believes the stores will be in this pattern "for at least several more months." The stores' landlords are "hanging in there with us," and Thomas sends them as much as she can. She noted that PPP was a "life-saver," and she's applied for a second draw that would help Pegasus "breathe easier during the slower seasons." --Alex Mutter

International Update: Global Book Sales 2020, Southeast Asia Indies Battle Covid

In its global book sales review for 2020, the Bookseller reported that in spite of "vast cultural differences, there were commonalities across Nielsen BookScan's five-continent-spanning international territories last year, with readers--as they did in Britain--[turning] to fiction, children's books and self-help/wellbeing titles to help them through a difficult 12 months."  

Ireland "was the star of the BookScan global league table, with a pandemic-defying boom and its highest sales total in 12 years," the Bookseller noted. Euro sales rose 9.5% in 2020, while unit sales climbed 7.8%. New Zealand's unit sales "were flat year on year, which scans, given the country's much-praised management of the crisis."

Other results from Nielsen's largest overseas markets included Italy (units -16.4%, value n/a), Australia (units +8.9%, value +7.8%), Spain (units -11.6%, value -0.8%), Brazil (units +4.4%, value +2.9%), India (units -3.8%, value +5.5%) and Mexico (units -12.1%, value -6.8%)


Independent bookstores in Southeast Asia, "just as elsewhere, are under threat due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has depressed sales, even as they face stiff competition from online book retailers such as Amazon, and expanding corporate book chains," Nikkei Asia reported, adding that the damage is already evident in the region, "where bookstores are needed more than ever as governments increasingly resort to authoritarian measures that threaten to stifle creativity. Even a local corporate franchise like Singapore-based Popular had to shut all 16 Hong Kong outlets in March."

Kenny Leck, owner of the internationally renowned indie Books Actually, closed his physical store after 15 years and took his operation fully online. "We closed the physical space because after two months of lockdown [due to Covid-19], online sales are now doing better than we ever did in the bookstore," he said.

While Gerakbudaya Bookshop, Penang, Malaysia, "remains a crossroads where writers and artists can make meaningful connections with local and visiting intellectuals, forming ties that not only reach across the region, but around the world," Gerakbudaya bookstore and publisher (a separate entity from its Penang namesake) in Kuala Lumpur "has asked readers to buy its books to shore up declining business," Nikkei Asia wrote. 

Although selling books online may help indie bookstores weather the pandemic, "no online experience can duplicate the feeling of visiting a curated bookstore, asking a bookseller for advice and, most importantly, meeting like-minded individuals," Nikkei Asia noted. "Physical bookstores have a captivating power to turn cultural differences into a common love of knowledge--a solid base for any healthy society. But if these special spaces disappear from Southeast Asia's booming cities, the region's creative freedom and inspiration will face an even rougher ride."


Louise and Gareth Ward

New Zealand booksellers Gareth and Louise Ward, two former cops who own Wardini Books in Havelock North and Napier, "met in the police force in the U.K. and moved to N.Z. in 2007," Stuff reported.

"Gareth and I have always supported one another," Louise Ward said. "If a change needs to be made, then we will do it. I'm more impulsive and he'll be the one considering the consequences. But we don't muck around because life is short. It's an attitude we've developed together over 25 years.... Gareth has always written stories. After we got to New Zealand, he entered the Tessa Duder Award​ and he got a publishing contract with Walker Books​. He writes steampunk fiction for teens and tweens, but just like the Harry Potter books, adults like them too."

Gareth Ward observed: "Louise runs the bookshops and everyone affectionately calls her The Boss. It's been very challenging with Covid and the supply problems, but she handles it so well. She does all the book buying but I'll sit in on the meetings. I'm slightly more cautious, so she pushes me to do things, which is good. But both of us always feel the worst thing would be to think: 'What if I, or we, didn't do that and regretted it later?' We've always tried to do new and different things. She's also given me the freedom to step away from the bookshop and really go for it with my writing." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Christopher Little

Christopher Little, "who as a struggling literary agent took a chance on a scrappy submission about tween-age wizards--even though he once disdained children's fiction as a money-loser--and built it into the most successful literary empire in history on the strength of its lead character, Harry Potter," died January 7, the New York Times reported. He was 79.

"Christopher Little was the first person in the publishing industry to believe in me," Rowling said. "Being taken on by his agency was a huge break for an unknown writer. He represented me throughout the 10 years I published Harry Potter and, in doing so, changed my life."

Little first became an agent in 1979 when Philip Nicholson, a childhood friend, asked him to help sell his first novel, a thriller written under the pen name A.J. Quinnell. Man on Fire ultimately sold 7.5 million copies and was twice adapted for film, most recently in 2004 with Denzel Washington. Little subsequently opened the Christopher Little Literary Agency, "though he maintained that selling manuscripts was just a 'hobby.' It soon became more than that," the Times wrote.

In 1995, Rowling, an unpublished, unemployed single mother in Edinburgh, sent Little the first three chapters of her book "after finding his name in a directory of literary agents. Knowing nothing about the business, she picked him because his name made him sound like a character from a children's book," the Times noted.

Little submitted the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to 12 publishers and received 12 rejections before selling it for £2,500 (about $3,420), "a meager amount, but his genius was in the details: He sold only the rights to publish it in Britain and the Commonwealth, and he asked for high royalties," the Times wrote. Little sold the U.S. rights for just over $100,000 and the film rights for $1.8 million.

In 2011, Rowling split with Little when his in-house lawyer, Neil Blair, left to establish his own agency. Although Little threatened to sue, he backed off after Rowling paid him an undisclosed sum.

Little went on to represent bestselling authors like Darren O'Shaughnessy and Janet Gleeson. In 2012 he merged his agency with Curtis Brown and continued to take on new clients, including Shiromi Pinto, author most recently of the novel Plastic Emotions. "It was because he took a chance with her, that he was able to take a chance on someone like me," Pinto said.


Cool Idea of the Day: Bookseller's Choice

East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, Calif., has launched Bookseller's Choice, a series of browseable online magazines featuring a range of titles selected by individual booksellers. Announcing the initiative, owner Brad Johnson wrote: "In some cases, these are not straightforward recommendations. Rather, the idea is that these represent the titles we might stock and display in our own micro-space. 'How can we do what we're doing now... but also smaller?' was the guiding question."

Bookseller's Choice will be featured prominently on the bookstore's website and updated regularly.

"There is, it seems to me, nothing to be gained from the horror that is Covid," Johnson observed, adding that during the pandemic, it has "been difficult to do what we do best. Nevertheless, you have rewarded our efforts to think creatively about what socially distanced bookselling might look like....

"A lot of retail is about anticipating what customers will want. While that's certainly part of the job, the greater portion for us is representing what we value and trusting that we're not so alien from the people who want to shop with us! This participatory vision is impossible without great booksellers, of which we have a roster of all-stars. What better way to highlight this than more space to express their tastes and values?"

The Literary Life: Mitchell Kaplan Interviews Paul Yamazaki

On the latest edition of The Literary Life podcast, Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, with stores in South Florida and the Cayman Islands, interviewed bookselling legend Paul Yamazaki of City Lights Books, San Francisco, Calif. They talked about Yamazaki's 50-year career as a bookseller, as well as "working with City Lights co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, freedom of expression, and that time in jail."

Personnel Changes at Random House

In the Random House publicity department:

Cindy Murray has been promoted to v-p, director of publicity and marketing, Christian Publishing. She was formerly director of publicity, Christian Publishing, and joined Random House more than 20 years ago, originally for Ballantine.

David Moench has been promoted to v-p, director of publicity, Del Rey. He was formerly director of publicity, Del Rey.

Carla Bruce-Eddings has joined the department as director of publicity, One World/Roc Lit 101. She has worked at Catapult/Counterpoint Press/Soft Skull and Riverhead Books.

Carrie Neill has been promoted to associate director of publicity from assistant director of publicity. She joined the company two years ago from Little, Brown.

Emily Isayeff has been promoted to assistant director of publicity from publicity manager. She joined the department in 2013.

Steven Boriack has been promoted to assistant director of publicity from publicity manager.

Stacey Stein has been promoted to publicist from associate publicist.

Leslie Calhoun has been promoted to marketing and publicity associate for WaterBrook & Multnomah. She was formerly marketing and publicity assistant.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ellen Harper on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Ellen Harper, author of Always a Song: Singers, Songwriters, Sinners, and Saints--My Story of the Folk Music Revival (Chronicle Prism, $24.95, 9781452184241).

Tonight Show: John Cena, author of Elbow Grease: Teamwork Wins! (Random House, $4.99, 9780593182048).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Ethan Hawke, author of A Bright Ray of Darkness: A Novel (Knopf, $27.95, 9780385352383).

Good Morning America: Ben Higgins, co-author of Alone in Plain Sight: Searching for Connection When You're Seen but Not Known (Thomas Nelson, $26.99, 9781400221356).

The View: Ibram X. Kendi, co-editor of Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 (One World, $32, 9780593134047).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: David Duchovny, author of Truly Like Lightning: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28, 9780374277741). He will also appear on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Wright Thompson, author of Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last (Penguin Press, $27, 9780735221253).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: James Martin, author of Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone (HarperOne, $27.99, 9780062643230).

TV: Sandman; All Our Wrong Todays

Netflix has confirmed the casting choices for Netflix's upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, including Tom Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Boyd Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry and Sanjeem Bhaskar, IndieWire reported.

Gaiman is executive producing the series alongside David S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg. IndieWire noted that the creative team "has long attempted to bring The Sandman to the big screen, including a failed movie adaptation in 2013 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached to star." The new project was adapted by Gaiman and Heinberg.

"For the last 33 years, the Sandman characters have breathed and walked around and talked in my head," Gaiman said. "I'm unbelievably happy that now, finally, they get to step out of my head and into reality. I can't wait until the people out there get to see what we've been seeing as Dream, and the rest of them take flesh, and the flesh belongs to some of the finest actors out there.... This is astonishing, and I'm so grateful to the actors and to all of The Sandman collaborators--Netflix, Warner Bros., DC, to Allan Heinberg and David Goyer, and the legions of crafters and geniuses on the show--for making the wildest of all my dreams into reality."


Seth MacFarlane has teamed up with Amy Pascal to adapt Elan Mastai's novel All Our Wrong Todays as a series for Peacock. Deadline reported that Mastai, a writer and supervising producer on NBC's This Is Us, is writing the adaptation, with MacFarlane and Erica Huggins exec producing for Fuzzy Door via their overall with Universal Content Productions. 

Books & Authors

Frank Morrison: Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner

Frank Morrison is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including Jazzy Miz Mozetta, winner of the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for New Talent; Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book; Muhammad Ali; and How Sweet the Sound. Before becoming a children's book illustrator and fine artist, Morrison toured the globe as a break-dancer. Morrison recently won the CSK Illustrator Award for R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

You are no stranger to the Coretta Scott King Award. How does it feel to win "the gold"?

It feels amazing! Especially to win gold for a platinum iconic artist like Ms. Aretha Franklin! 

How does it feel to win for this book? How about this year? Is there anything about this work that you felt particularly connected to?

Last year was a mixture of hope and heartbreaks. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost someone to Covid-19 or is battling with it. Thank goodness that we began this year with the hope of being vaccinated. 

The racial injustice ran rampant. Seeing all nationalities coming together to march for justice around the planet gave me strength after watching those horrific acts. 

Carole Boston Weatherford is an incredible talent (with a bunch of award-winning books under her belt, as well). Did you have a feeling when illustrating this work that the combination of her text and your art would be something special?

When working with an award-winning genius such as Carole, one must bring their "A" game. I must also bring my dancing shoes. This is required to stay on the beat of her text. I am just honored to be a contestant. 

What did it feel like to bring the Queen of Soul's story to illustrated life? Do you have any favorite pieces of artwork from the book?

All hail the queen! I grew up listening and watching and dancing to Aretha Franklin. I would have never thought in a million years that I would be blessed with the opportunity to bring her story to an illustrated life.

My favorite page is all of them! My favorite song is "Amazing Grace." 

What are you working on now?

I am excited to share that I am working on a project that I wrote titled Kick Push. Fasten your seat belts. This young skateboarder will be grinding his way to book shelves later this year! --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Awards: BIO Winner; PROSE Categories

David Levering Lewis, professor emeritus of history at New York University, has won of the 12th annual BIO Award, bestowed by the Biographers International Organization to "a distinguished colleague who has made a major contribution to the advancement of the art and craft of biography."

Lewis's biographies include King: A Biography (now in its third edition, from University of Illinois Press) and The Improbable Wendell Wilkie: The Businessman Who Saved the Republican Party and His Country, and Conceived a New World Order (Liveright). Both volumes of his two-volume life of W.E.B. DuBois (Holt McDougal) won the Pulitzer Prize.

Lewis will receive the BIO Award on May 15 at the virtual BIO Conference, where he will also deliver the keynote address.


Winners have been announced in the 45 subject categories of the 2021 PROSE Awards, sponsored by the Association of American Publishers and honoring the best scholarly works published in 2020. These winners will compete for one of five Prose Awards in biological and life sciences, humanities, physical science and mathematics, reference works and social sciences. One of those five will win the R.R. Hawkins Award, the top prize of the annual PROSE competition.

See all the winners here.

Book Review

Review: Milk Fed

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (Scribner, $26 hardcover, 304p., 9781982142490, February 2, 2021)

Rachel, the heroine of Melissa Broder's agitated sophomore novel, Milk Fed, is a need machine. At 24 years old, she has a desk job at a talent agency in Los Angeles, a gym membership she uses daily, a therapist she meets with weekly and deep-seated mother issues that express themselves through obsessive, highly controlled food rituals and bizarre sexual fantasies. Shaped by a lifetime of maternal nit-picking and neglect, Rachel's diet consists of nicotine gum, low-fat chocolate muffin tops and the small dopamine hits garnered when co-workers and acquaintances tell her that she looks too thin. Her compulsions, which set the novel's pace to a manic tempo, emanate from a deep reserve of endlessly unmet desire. In the skilled hands of Broder, this broad and often unspecified desire, on which her character's entire way of being is predicated, continually changes shape.

During a 90-day therapist-prescribed "emotional detox" from her mother, Rachel finds that her mother's critical voice, which long ago established itself as her inner monologue, becomes muted when a kind, overweight frozen yogurt chef enters her life. Miriam smokes clove cigarettes, watches old movies, drinks massively caloric fruity cocktails and eats whatever she wants, as long as it's kosher. Blessedly unburdened by the neuroses that govern Rachel's life, Miriam becomes a multi-faceted object of obsession for her: first, as the embodiment of her worst fears, then as a mother figure and, finally, as a lover.

A credulous reader might catalog Milk Fed as a tender lesbian romance, but a more critical reader will recognize its winking irreverence, its tongue-in-cheek chronicling of a profound emotional collapse. Broder's meticulous characterization of a woman completely controlled by her appetites brings readers to the same lengths of desperation and hunger that define Rachel's daily experience. The raunchy and nihilistic tone of Milk Fed is reminiscent of the works of Miranda July, Chris Kraus and Ottessa Moshfegh, who've all written love stories more likely to make readers cringe rather than swoon. Like these contemporaries, Broder expertly unsettles her readers not just by pushing her character to extremes, but by revealing the strikingly reasonable path that led her there.

"More than anything, all I'd ever wanted was a total embrace, the embrace of an infinite mother, absolute and divine," Rachel explains. The absence of maternal love in her life is what sends her on an ill-fated quest to search for its vital nourishment in every inappropriate place she can find. The result is a Freudian fable of sorts, one that is hilarious, self-deprecating and full of Broder's signature profligate brilliance. This visceral and transporting portrait of self-denial and its twin, excess, sheds light on the psychology underpinning the American obsession with weight. Daring, chaotic and pleasingly heretical, Milk Fed is the work of a total pro. --Emma Levy, freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Melissa Broder's Milk Fed is smutty exploration of the healing and punishing potential of food.

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