Also published on this date: Wednesday, February 3, 2021: Maximum Shelf: Boyz n the Void

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Yen Press: The God of Nishi-Yuigahama Station by Takeshi Murase, Translated by Guiseppe Di Martino

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Simon & Schuster: Register for the Simon & Schuster Fall Preview!

St. Martin's Press: Sacrificial Animals by Kailee Pedersen


Amazon: Jeff Bezos Giving Up CEO Post; Record Quarterly Results

Jeff Bezos
Andy Jassy

The big news from Amazon yesterday wasn't so much its fourth-quarter results--which set a record as more consumers did more buying online because of the pandemic--as the announcement that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is giving up the CEO post sometime after July 1 and will become executive chair. Andy Jassy, who is currently CEO of Amazon's highly profitable cloud division, Amazon Web Services (AWS), will succeed him as CEO.

Jessy, 53, is a graduate of Harvard Business School and joined Amazon in 1997 as a marketing manager. In 2003, he launched AWS and was became AWS CEO in 2016.

Amazon announced the move in a way that was as much an advertisement for the company as an explanation, quoting Bezos as saying, "Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime's insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. When you look at our financial results, what you're actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition."

In an e-mail to employees, Bezos, 57, said, "As much as I still tap dance into the office, I'm excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it's consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it's hard to put attention on anything else. As exec chair, I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, the Washington Post, and my other passions. I've never had more energy, and this isn't about retiring. I'm super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have."

The New York Times noted that "in recent years, Mr. Bezos had stepped back from much of Amazon's day-to-day business, delegating those responsibilities to two main deputies, including Mr. Jassy. He instead had focused on Amazon's future and personal projects such as space travel... But the pandemic pulled Mr. Bezos back into Amazon's daily operations last spring. As Amazon grappled with a flood of e-commerce demand, labor unrest and supply chain challenges brought on by the coronavirus, Mr. Bezos began holding daily calls to help make decisions about inventory, talked to government officials and made a much-publicized visit to one of Amazon's warehouses. Amazon has now stabilized and its growth surged."

Bezos founded Amazon 25 years ago as an online bookseller. Of course, Amazon has grown a bit since then, and now in press releases about company results, books are rarely if ever mentioned. Bezos's personal fortune is estimated at $188 billion, making him the second richest person in the world. (If not for his 2019 divorce settlement and Tesla's huge jump in stock price, he would easily be the richest person in the world now.)

In other Amazon news, net sales in the fourth quarter ended December 31 rose 43.6%, to $125.6 billion, and net income rose 121%, to $7.2 billion. For the full year, net sales rose 37.6%, to $386.1 billion, and net income rose 84.1%, to $21.3 billion.

The company predicted that first-quarter net sales will grow 33%-40%, to between $100 billion and $106 billion.

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Palabras Bilingual Bookstore Reopens in New Space

Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, which sells new and used English- and Spanish-language titles, has reopened in its new home in Phoenix, Ariz., AZCentral reported

The bookstore, which owner Rosaura "Chawa" Magaña opened back in 2015, now shares a space in downtown Phoenix with Wasted Ink Zine Distro, with the goal of becoming a "local literary hub and community space" focused on representation, equity and mutual support. Wasted Ink is owned by Charissa Lucille and stocks hundreds of zines on a variety of topics.

Their neighbors at 906 W. Roosevelt St. include a store specializing in Risograph prints and zines, a bakery and a publishing press with a focus on indigenous writers.

In December, both Wasted Ink and Palabras announced they would be moving, later revealing that they were moving together.

GLOW: Torrey House Press: Life After Dead Pool: Lake Powell's Last Days and the Rebirth of the Colorado River by Zak Podmore

Black Authors Rock Makes Pop-up Debut Near Biloxi, Miss.

LaTracey Drux

Black Authors Rock, a coaching, consulting and publishing company focused on helping Black writers complete and publish their work, has opened a pop-up shop located at Keesler Air Force Base Exchange near Biloxi, Miss., the Sun Herald reported.

The store focuses on books by Black authors and especially on the work of authors published through Black Authors Rock. Owner LaTracey Drux hopes eventually to move the store to a permanent location off of the base. Drux plans for books signings and author talks to be a big part of the store, but given the restrictions involved with the base, she is looking to partner with other bookstores and cafes to run events.

“I have found especially during the pandemic that a lot of people have realized that their stories matter, that their voices matter, and that they need to learn which ways they can effectively tell their story and get paid by it,” Drux told the Sun Herald.

Drux founded Black Authors Rock in 2017 and has since helped 74 writers publish their work. She also runs online communities that help writers meet each other and share their work and experiences.

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Credit Union Adds Its Support to Oklahoma City's Nappy Roots Books

Nappy Roots Books in Oklahoma City, Okla., which has been able to pay back rent and avoid eviction thanks to an outpouring of community support after owner Camille Landry recently asked her customers for help, received more good news this week. KOKH reported that True Sky Credit Union donated two months worth of rent and other business expenses.

"We're incredibly grateful to learn that somebody was going to fund basically a couple of months of operating expenses," said Landry. "It guarantees that the doors stays open and we can continue to deliver service."

Jon Skelly, v-p of marketing and community development for the credit union, which is opening up a new branch at 50th & MLK in the coming months, said the company wanted to be a good neighbor by helping: "It was certainly an opportunity that was important. It's in a community where we're becoming neighbors. It was really at that point of just working out the details of how we can help and exactly what we could do. This is such an establishment in the community and the work they're doing is amazing."

Landry had also suggested they team up to spread awareness of the importance of literature and Black History Month. "She had the idea for us to go ahead and buy some books," said Skelly. "Those books will be given away through the bookstore during this annual observance."

Landry added: "This is why black bookstores are so important for the community. "Literature is great across the board but literature that reflects you, the way you live, who you are is absolutely critical." 

Turner Publishing Buys Prospect Park Books

Turner Publishing has bought Prospect Park Books, Altadena, Calif., which focuses on fiction, mysteries, cookbooks, gift books and regional titles. In its 15 years, the press has published about 100 titles, plus several dozen more under its custom-publishing Raymond Press imprint. Turner Publishing is now handling all sales; a dozen more books are in the process of publication.

Founder Colleen Dunn Bates said in an announcement that she will finish the editing of several upcoming titles on Turner's behalf over the next six months or so, "and after that, I intend to have at least a few months with no professional commitments of any kind." The rest of the "beyond-fabulous staff--Caitlin Ek, Katelyn Keating, and Julianne Johnson--have all moved on to new adventures."

She offered thanks to a variety of people in addition to the staff, including "to our incredible authors; to everyone who has ever bought a single one of our titles; to our superb distributor, Consortium; to my former partner, Patty O'Sullivan; to all the people who've worked for me (John, Billy, Caroline, Skylar, Jen, Dorie, Caitlin, Julianne, Katelyn); to all the people who've lent PPB money (now you'll get paid back!); to all the amazing freelance designers (I'm looking at you, Amy Inouye), copyeditors/proofreaders (especially Margery Schwartz and Leilah Bernstein), photographers, illustrators, and sales reps; and to all my friends in the publishing world, without whom I never would have made it to the third book."

She added that "those of you who know me personally know how hard I've worked these last 15 years. This is true for everyone who starts their own business, whether they're making software or pretzel rolls or books. It's been years since I've had a vacation that hasn't required at least three hours a day of work, and the number of nights at the office till 11 p.m. and weeknights/weekends spent at book events have at times seemed limitless. I've never regretted a minute of it, because how lucky I have been to get to create my favorite thing--books!--with such a roster of gifted authors, artists, designers, and editors. I do, however, dream of inbox zero, and time to spend with my new grandson, and post-Covid trips to take, and friends and family to hang out with, and books to read for fun, and ways to help my community. Now I'll get the chance."

Obituary Note: David Wheldon

Novelist, poet and pathologist David Wheldon, who released a number of novels in the 1980s and 1990s, died January 7, the Bookseller reported. He was 70. His first novel, The Viaduct (1983), won the Triple First Award "in a year when Graham Greene and William Trevor were the final judges, and was runner-up for the Whitbread Award." The book was followed by The Course of InstructionA Vocation and At the Quay.

After those early works, Wheldon "paused his literary career to develop a treatment of multiple sclerosis, with which his wife Sarah Longlands, an artist, had been diagnosed," the Bookseller noted, adding that in recent years he began publishing stories again, with The Guiltless Bystander short story collection due to be released later this year.

Writer David Rose, who introduced Wheldon's short fiction to editors on both sides of the Atlantic, observed: "I was first tipped off about David Wheldon's work by the Irish writer Aiden O'Reilly a few years ago. Aiden had been working in London in the late 1980s and came upon a copy of The Course of Instruction, intrigued by the blurb. Enthralled by the novel itself, he went on to read The Viaduct. In the Internet age, Aiden stumbled on David Wheldon's website, made contact, made friends, and alerted me to his work.

"I too made contact with David, tracked down battered copies of the first two novels in Penguin, and a first edition of the third novel, A Vocation, to my mind the best of the four published novels. However, there is a self-published fifth: Days and Orders, which David sent me. It made a deep impression--a strange, philosophical, existentialist meditation in a timeless, possibly medieval setting."


Indie Bookstore Fan Letter from a 5th Grader

Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., shared a letter it received recently from a young fan of the bookstore. Owner Janet Geddis posted on Facebook: "To the sweet and funny 5th grader who sent us this letter: your love for Avid, and the fact that you took time to send us these kind words, couldn't be a better example of our WHY. (We'll be sending you a reply soon--you know we love #avidsnailmail.)

"We want to help people connect better to themselves and to each other by reading, sharing, and talking about stories. In non-pandemic times, we help create a physical environment--our bookshop--in which that can happen. These days, we are trying our best to convey our gratitude and warmth through social media interactions, e-mails, phone conversations, online events, and--of course!--snail mail.

"Our 'why' is what keeps us energized on stressful days; it's what brings fulfillment to our jobs even during these long months of not being able to greet you at the shop. We'll get through this, and we know you will do. And let this student's letter remind us of the power of sharing our love and gratitude via 'real' mail. Full confession: I got teary-eyed about halfway through typing up the letter's contents below, and by the end I was quite sniffly. Wow."

Personnel Changes at Charlesbridge; Doubleday

Megan Bencivenni Quinn has been promoted to v-p, director of sales, at Charlesbridge. She has been with the company since 2007.


Michael Goldsmith has been promoted to senior director of publicity of Doubleday, where he has worked for seven years.


Macmillan has restructured the central digital marketing team, making the following personnel changes:

Cristina Gilbert has been named senior v-p, publishing and marketing strategy.

Hillary Scarbrough is being promoted to v-p, business systems. She was formerly senior director of business systems and joined Macmillan 10 years ago.

Jeff Carroll is leaving the company after his position, executive v-p, marketing & consumer strategy, was eliminated. He joined Macmillan in 2019.

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular January Books

The two most popular books in January at Reading Group Choices were The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (Tor Books) and Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jim Tankersley on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Jim Tankersley, author of The Riches of This Land: The Untold, True Story of America's Middle Class (PublicAffairs, $28, 9781541767836).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Erica Keswin, author of Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines into Workplace Magic (McGraw-Hill, $27, 9781260461893).

Movies: Amnesty

Ramin Bahrani, who collaborated with author Aravind Adiga on The White Tiger, will adapt, direct and produce a film version of Adiga's novel Amnesty for Netflix, Deadline reported. Also producing are Ashok Amritraj for Hyde Park Entertainment and Bahrani's partner Bahareh Azimi through their Noruz Films banner.

"I am thrilled to adapt Aravind's great new novel, Amnesty. And very grateful to partner with Netflix and my lead creative producer Bahareh Azimi once again," said Bahrani. "This novel gripped me from the first time Aravind shared a rough draft with me five years ago. I can't wait to bring it to the screen."

Adiga commented: "I'm delighted that Ramin and Netflix are bringing Amnesty to life. Amnesty, my most personal novel, evolved in the course of discussions with Ramin over many years. It's my attempt to dramatize the moral crisis at the center of the story that is faced in various forms by immigrants around the world. I can't wait to see Ramin's interpretation on Netflix."

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN/Faulkner Fiction Longlist, Literary Champion

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation has released a 10-title longlist for the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Five finalists will be announced in early March and the winner named in April. The longlisted titles are:

Bestiary by K-Ming Chang (One World)
Dear Ann by Bobbie Ann Mason (HarperCollins)
Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear by Matthew Salesses (Little A)
The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe (Knopf)
Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman (Scribner)
Nine Shiny Objects by Brian Castleberry (Custom House)
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (Riverhead)
Scattered Lights by Steve Wiegenstein (Cornerpost)
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia University Press)
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf)

In addition, LeVar Burton, award-winning actor and longtime host of Reading Rainbow, has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion, which recognizes "devoted literary advocacy and a commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers."

"For decades, LeVar Burton has inspired readers all over the world," said PEN/Faulkner's executive director Gwydion Suilebhan. "He has brought stories to life in a magical and meaningful way for generations of book lovers, and his work has made a lasting, positive impact in literature."

Burton added: "I come from a family for whom service to others is the highest possible calling. Whatever efforts I have made toward advancing the cause of literacy, give honor to my mother, Erma Gene Christian, my first teacher and from whom I have inherited my love for books and reading. As we move forward out of a time when alternative facts and mendacious propaganda shaped public opinion, the work you do through the PEN/Faulkner Award, and your committed investment in D.C. schools, has never been more important. I couldn't be more honored to be the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion."

Yamile Saied Méndez: Inaugural Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award Winner

Yamile Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine American. She lives in Utah with her Puerto Rican husband and their five kids, two adorable dogs and one majestic cat. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she's a graduate of Voices of Our Nations and the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of five middle-grade books, as well as the picture book Where Are You From, illustrated by Jaime Kim. Méndez is also part of Las Musas, the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx middle grade and young adult authors. Her YA debut, Furia (Algonquin Young Readers), last week received the inaugural Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award.

Congratulations! How does it feel to win the first-ever Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award?

Thank you so much! I feel such a mix of emotions, mainly gratitude. I'm so grateful for all the people who championed Furia from the very beginning, back in the early 2000s when I was a very young mom, stealing moments here and there to write the book of my heart. I'm so inspired by the other award winners, whose books are life changing and important, and I'm honored to see my book beside theirs. I'm thrilled that after this recognition, Furia may reach even more readers. Given that this is the inaugural medal in the YA category, I'm honored and grateful.  

What is it like to win such an exciting award for your debut? 

When I started writing Furia (under a very different title), I didn't have the craft tools to tell what I had in my mind and my heart. As I grew as a woman and a writer, I acquired those tools and a community. I stuck with the story until I had the skills to do it justice, and now to see the wonderful reception is a validation of so many years of solitary work and persevering. 2020 was such a challenging year, but in terms of books published, there was such a wealth of stories! I'm honored to have won the medal especially during a pandemic and a social revolution. It inspires me to continue telling my stories. 

In Furia, Camila Hassan, a 17-year-old soccer player living in Argentina, desperately wants to get an athletic scholarship to a North American university. What inspired you to write this story? 

I've always been obsessed with fútbol, but when I was a teenager, there weren't opportunities for girls to play, at least in Argentina. When I started writing Furia, I hadn't been back in Argentina for several years, and I was extremely homesick. Furia was my personal alternate reality where I loved exploring what if. Every time I sat down to write, I could visit Rosario, albeit in my mind and my heart, and I drew from my own experiences growing up there and that of the amazing futboleras I met in my youth.  

The realism of Camila's family being opposed to her playing the sport she loves is something a lot of teens can relate to--whether it be sports or some other aspect of their life. Additionally, Camila grows and changes, builds herself up and becomes a young woman in the face of patriarchy and misogyny. Why did you want to write this book?

I couldn't not write it. Writing to me is like bearing witness of the things I see and experience. Camila is based on so many people I know, whose stories deserved to be told. I guess writing is also my activism, a way to rise my voice to call attention to things that matter to me and affect all of society. 

What do you hope readers take with them when they finish Furia?

I never sat down to write with the purpose of teaching or leaving a message, but I did with the hope that my future readers would be dazzled by the power of a teenage girl with big dreams and be inspired to realize their own.   

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf Awareness readers?

I just want to express my gratitude for the wonderful support a story about a girl from a humble barrio in Rosario has received. Even if your background and circumstances are very different from Camila's, I invite you to glimpse into this world, and you might be surprised that so many things connect us as human beings. And I hope that many future authors will add their stories and voices to the growing canon of Latine stories. We need to read different perspectives. I hope after reading Furia you will be inspired to add your own. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Reading with... John Hart

photo: Ashley Cox

John Hart is the author of The King of Lies, Down River, The Last Child, Iron House, Redemption Road and The Hush. The only author to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel consecutively, Hart has also received the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Booksellers' Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His novels have been translated into 30 languages and published in more than 70 countries. The Unwilling (just published by St. Martin's Press) is his first work of historical fiction.

On your nightstand now:

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I come back to it about once every 10 years. It's like Tolkien's books, or Dune by Frank Herbert--books I read young that demand re-visitation. It seems the older I get, the more often I return to the writers of my childhood: Jack London, C.S. Forester, Robert Heinlein. Some sort of regression, perhaps. I'm sure a psychologist could offer a decent theory.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was a birthday gift when I turned 15, and I read the entirety of it in two days, mostly sprawled out on the living room floor, or in bed until the wee small hours. This was before the movies, of course, so the experience was one of raw imagination and total immersion. Few people build worlds the way Tolkien did. I still see it my way, and not as Peter Jackson brought it to the screen.

Your top five authors:

I love Nathaniel Philbrick for the way he brings history to life, and Pat Conroy for his nakedness (it seems every book laid him bare). Michael Chabon's versatility is stunning. Tolkien is a god, but so is Neil Gaiman.

Book you've faked reading:

I've never faked a book. You can ask my wife.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. Post-apocalyptic poetry and what may be the most beautiful story ever written about a man and his dog.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Passage by Justin Cronin. Beautiful cover. The book did not disappoint.

Book you hid from your parents:

Do magazines count???

Book that changed your life:

Honestly, The King of Lies, my first novel. It launched my career, and I cannot imagine my life were I not doing this for a living. The book literally changed my life.

Favorite line from a book:

I'll go with the opening to The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy: "My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call." I've never seen first words resonate so utterly with a novel in its entirety. The book is a love letter to place.

Five books you'll never part with:

The signed first editions given to me by my friend John Grisham.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Is it sad that I keep coming back to The Lord of the Rings? As an adult, I read very little fantasy. As a child, though, I was transported by the remarkable depth of this imaginary world, the complex interweaving of multiple geographies, religions, histories, cultures and interests, the peoples and places, and how they'd evolved, fought and co-existed for thousands of years. Tolkien created a foreign, remarkable, unforgettable world, yet made it entirely real to me. Total conviction. I read those stories with childlike wonder, and would pay dearly to have the experience again. I'm too old and jaded, I'm sure, but if anyone could make it happen, Tolkien would be the one to do it.

Favorite time period for historical fiction:

I have an abiding love of stories about the English sailing navy and its role in the Napoleonic wars. Geopolitics, global war, peril and adventure. What's not to love? Many writers excel in this space, and I've read them all two or three times, great talents like Patrick O'Brian, C.S. Forester, Alexander Kent, Dewey Lambdin and Dudley Pope. There are others, but these are my favorites.

Book Review

Children's Review: Grandad's Camper

Grandad's Camper by Harry Woodgate (Little Bee Books, $17.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 3-6, 9781499811933, April 6, 2021)

There are some fine picture books out there revolving around a child's experience of loss, but there aren't many designed to help kids understand someone else's grief. With the affecting Grandad's Camper, Harry Woodgate takes a step toward reducing that deficit. To do so, they enlist a groovy pink and white camper with a zippy blue stripe as a symbol of both the past and moving on.

"Every summer, I go to stay at my grandad's house by the sea," reports a girl who appears to be about eight. Inside Grandad's cottage, she examines shelves full of travel souvenirs; outside, she likes to shake the fruit from his cherry tree. "But my favorite thing to do at Grandad's house," she explains, "is snuggle up on the sofa and listen as Grandad tells me about all of the amazing places he and Gramps would explore."

One of the high points of Grandad and Gramps's life together was a road trip; as Grandad recalls, "One afternoon, Gramps said to me, 'There are so many wonderful things in this world, and I want to see them all with you.'" Once Grandad and Gramps were settled in their camper, they bypassed natural wonders in favor of urban sights that Gramps had always been eager to see: "We saw lots of different kinds of homes, from high-rise apartments to town houses. But we were happy with our little home on wheels, which we could take wherever we pleased." When the girl asks Grandad why he's no longer out there having adventures, he says, "It's not the same without Gramps--he made everything feel extra-special. Since Gramps died, I just don't feel like it." This gives her an idea.

The girl's narration doesn't sound like that of a child, and at times the dialogue seems mechanical. Nevertheless, the book has the potential to be an effective tool for teaching empathy, and the intergenerational bond at the story's center is a heartstrings puller.

The art throughout Grandad's Camper is dashing, the layouts somehow chockablock and yet never too busy. Geometric elements create an orderliness that allows for the book's boundless palette. When Grandad reflects back on his life with Gramps, his memories take the visual form of vignettes showing the younger versions of the men--Grandad white, Gramps with the same brown skin tone as the girl--on the road, at home, or enjoying the great outdoors, but always delighted to be together. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: This picture book, in which a girl helps her grandfather embrace life again following the death of Gramps, may well aid young readers in understanding others' grief.

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