Shelf Awareness for Monday, February 8, 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


Bookshop Santa Cruz Employees Vote in Favor of a Union

Last week, non-management staff at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Calif., voted by a 58%-42% margin to form a union with Communication Workers of America Local 9423.

In announcing the vote, the union said, "We are excited to move forward with negotiation efforts between us and management, and look forward to formalizing our contract with the store." It said, too, that "Bookshop Santa Cruz workers are a collective of floor, warehouse, used book, and gift workers who are advocating for improved conditions in their workplace. The workers at the 54-year-old bookstore are committed to a unified voice, a living wage, and healthcare."

It also said that organizing efforts had been underway for nine months and began "in full after warehouse and floor workers were asked to return to work, without healthcare, hazard pay, or a say in safety protocols, amidst a global pandemic."

Bookshop Santa Cruz owner Casey Coonerty Protti said the store did offer hazard pay during the shutdown, after it received PPP funding. In addition, it increased paid time off for all employees working in the store--a policy that continues--and the store put into place protocols that exceeded CDC and county health guidelines. There haven't been any cases of Covid from the store, she said, "just two employees who contracted it in their home environment and didn't expose anyone to it at the store."

Bookshop Santa Cruz doesn't offer medical insurance because, Protti said, six years ago, "our employees asked us to eliminate our health insurance plan after a renewal period that would have seen costs go up 110% and only provided catastrophic care. We worked with our employees to get them on the exchanges and then took all the money earmarked for health care and an additional $50,000 and invested it into wages by giving everyone in the company a $2 per hour raise."

She said that during the pandemic, Bookshop Santa Cruz has paid for staff with any Covid symptoms to stay home without having to use paid time off, and has spent $9,000 on Covid sick leave.

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

How Bookstores Are Coping: Optimism for 2021; 'Threading the Needle'

In Woodstock, Ill., Read Between the Lynes was completely closed to the public for just over two months last year, with owner Arlene Lynes able to enter the store to process online and phone orders. Since reopening to the public in late May, the store has reduced its opening hours compared to pre-Covid operations.

Lynes and her team have installed an iWave air purifying system on the building's furnace, and they've put plexiglass barriers around the cash wrap areas and cafe areas. Masks are required and occupancy is limited per state requirements, and all of the store's indoor seating has been removed.

All told, Lynes reported, the store fared okay in 2020. Numbers were down compared to 2019, but it was "nothing we won't be able to weather." Her landlord was a huge help--the store's lease was set to expire on September 30 last year, and she managed to negotiate a one-year extension that came with a generous reduction in rent. With that and the store's reduced hours, "we will make it through."

While the beginning of the year is generally a slow time in the industry, Lynes noted that things are actually quite busy in Woodstock. The movie Groundhog Day was filmed there in 1992, and every year Groundhog Day becomes a "huge celebration that generates almost the same income as Christmas week." The celebration was on a much smaller scale this year, given the pandemic, but it was still well-attended and profitable.

Read Between the Lynes is keeping steady with online orders, although they've declined a bit, as more and more people are willing to venture out and shop in-store. It will take some time, Lynes added, but she is optimistic that by late summer the store should be operating as it was in 2019.


Kenny Brechner, owner of Devaney, Doak & Garrett in Farmington, Maine, reported that his store continues to have more online orders for both shipping and curbside pick-up, and fewer customers are coming in to browse. Policing mask compliance has gotten a little easier, Brechner added, but it continues to be an "acutely unhappy pandemic era operational component."

Devaney, Doak & Garrett was up 25% in 2020, and Brechner noted that the boost came from a big increase in school business, specifically from the store's educational partners using CARES grant money for books. Without that institutional business, the store would have been even or a tiny bit down.

Throughout the pandemic, the store has seen its online promotions become increasingly effective, although Brechner called it a "threading the needle situation." One day a Facebook post about new jigsaw puzzles will be "the thing," he explained, but the next day national news might make the same post "totally tone deaf."

Looking ahead into 2021, Brechner said the store had a good January, but it "will be a slow few months ahead." --Alex Mutter

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

Indigo 3rd Quarter: Sales Down 4.8% Because of Mandated Store Closings

In the third quarter ended December 26, revenue at Indigo Books & Music fell 4.8%, to C$365.4 million (about US$286.1 million), and net earnings rose 19%, to C$30.7 million (US$24 million).

The company said that "double-digit revenue growth in the first seven weeks of the quarter provided some cushion but could not overcome the severe impact of new government-mandated closures in several provinces, as well as severe customer capacity restrictions in markets with open stores....

"Revenues were challenged by a significant wave of mandated Covid-19 store closures in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec during the second part of November and December, a critical period of sales. The Company achieved exceptional e-commerce revenue growth of 92%, and the success of the Company's enhanced omnichannel capabilities, including click-and-collect, curbside pickup and Instacart, did blunt some of the effects of mandated re-closures. Bright spots in the quarter also included double-digit growth in the Company's baby and wellness categories and continued strength in its proprietary lifestyle brand OUI, showcasing customers' affinity for both core categories and new product assortment."

CEO Heather Reisman called the results "a testament to the demonstrated resilience of our teams and a deep affinity for our brand, achieved against massive disruption from mandated shut-downs and store limitations during the most important six weeks of our year. These shutdowns created a particularly uneven playing field in Ontario with 'essential' retailers selling all non-essential items, a practice disallowed by other provinces. Nevertheless, we remain energized by the momentum we saw pre-closures and look forward to having Covid-19 behind us."

Indigo noted that it has no outstanding debt and a cash balance of C$229.4 million (US$179.6 million) so it is "well positioned to manage through these uncertain times."

International Update: BA Joins Call for Staff Safety Protections; Latvian Bookshops Reopen

The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland has joined with the British Retail Consortium to call upon Prime Minister Boris Johnson for new legislation "to better protect retail colleagues against violence and abuse." More than 65 CEOs, including BA executive director Meryl Halls, have written to the PM seeking increased protective measures for shopworkers in England and Wales, as there are in Scotland.

The letter comes in response to a recent survey conducted by the BRC, which found that among "essential" retailers who are currently allowed to be open, 100% of respondents had seen an increase in verbal abuse, a trend that has accelerated as a result of Covid safety measures.

The BRC's letter calls for the government "to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves and improve protection for our employees by creating a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker." This legislation would toughen sentences for those who are violent or abusive toward retail workers, deter future perpetrators and ensure workers feel safer at their jobs.

"The BRC has repeatedly called on the government to take action and protect our colleagues from harm," said the organization's CEO, Helen Dickinson. "The recent surge in violence should serve as a wake-up call for government. Retail workers are playing a vital role during the biggest public health crisis of our time--ensuring everyone has access to the items they need and keeping stores safe for customers and colleagues. And, at what cost? They have been coughed at, spat on, racially abused, threatened with weapons, the list goes on. No one should go to work fearing for their safety, and we hope the Prime Minister will play his part by introducing a new offence for abusing, threatening and assaulting a retail worker."


Effective today, bookstores in Latvia "may open and sell their entire range of goods," reported. Under the Economics Ministry's new "safe trade" model, more goods are now permitted to be sold, with stricter safety rules regarding the flow of customers.

The Latvian government announced the retail sector changes on Friday. Since December 17, "only goods deemed essential were allowed to be sold and purchased on-site, leading many shops to temporarily close or move online, while other stores had to cordon off certain goods which were not allowed. From the get-go, this decision led to dissatisfaction both by customers and sellers," noted. Distance selling and e-commerce continue to operate without restrictions.


"Valentijn [Valentine's Day] is around the corner and because you can't search the store for a nice gift this year we have made a small selection for you," Boekhandel Van Piere, Eindhoven, Netherlands, posted on Facebook. "From the poetry of Bart Moeyaert, Nick Hornby's latest novel and the bucket list book for couples to a small, handy book with artwork centered on the themes of love and erotics."


Canadian author Ashley Audrain, who once worked as the publicity director at Penguin Canada and who just released her first novel, The Push, highlighted "the indie bookstores she's fallen in love with over the years" for the Toronto Star.

They include Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y. ("They have a really good selection and it feels perfectly bookish."), Type Books, Toronto, Ont. ("I know that when I pop in, I'm going to be transported."), DIESEL, A Bookstore, Brentwood, Calif. ("great little bookstore tucked away in Brentwood Country Mart"), Parry Sound Books, Parry Sound, Ont. ("I've been going to my whole life.") and Flying Books, Toronto ("totally unique: It's a bookstore, but it's also a publisher and a writing school."). --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Naim Attallah

Naim Attallah, chairman of Quartet Books, died February 4. He was 89. The Bookseller reported that Attallah, who was born in Palestine, "came to the U.K. in 1949 to study. He rose to become CEO of Asprey and eventually took over Quartet in 1976."

"The world of independent publishing will miss him greatly. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time," Quartet said in announcing his death on social media.

In addition to Quartet, Attallah previously owned two other imprints, the Women's Press and Robin Clark, alongside the Literary Review and the Oldie magazines in their early years, the Bookseller noted. He was made a CBE in the 2017 New Year Honors List for services to literature and the arts.

In a tribute published by the Telegraph, Anna Pasternak, who worked for Attallah at Quartet Books in the 1980s, wrote: "When I heard that Naim Attallah had died last week, I felt as if a vital pop of literary color had left our drab world. The flamboyant Palestinian proprietor of Quartet Books was a character so vivid that his exotic existence now seems the stuff of fiction. The entrepreneur who financed the Literary Review and the Oldie magazine, made a society splash in the 1980s throwing the most dazzling parties in London, employing only aristocratic beauties or girls with famous literary surnames. 'Attallah's harem' as it was known, would not pass muster with HR today. He created a wave of literary It girls, including Nigella Lawson, Rebecca Fraser, Sophia Sackville-West, Daisy Waugh, Emma Soames, Candida Crewe, Jubby Ingrams, Virginia Bonham-Carter. And me.... Fresh out of Oxford, I was considered leggy enough to work for Attallah, who insisted that we wore mini skirts to the office. I worked in Quartet's publicity department for a year and it was all so gloriously un-PC that viewed through the prism of today's woke world, it makes me miss Attallah and his eccentricities more." 


Colbert's Late Show Spotlights N.C. Bookstore

Last night, on his special post-Super Bowl edition of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert featured a commercial for an unlikely business: Foggy Pine Books in Boone, N.C. Colbert explained, "Big companies aren't the ones that need our support the most right now. It's small businesses that have been hurt the most in this pandemic. Of course a small business could never afford the millions of dollars it would cost to produce and run an ad on CBS tonight, which is why we here The Late Show have decided to just pick one and just give it to them."

The ad, which opens with a skydiver plummeting from a plane, features Sam Elliott, who narrates ("every book is an adventure waiting to happen"), and "satisfied customer" Tom Hanks ("Foggy Pine Books has the best selection in all of Boone. They have books on all of my interests, such as World War II, and also books about the events from 1939-45").

The bookstore tweeted, "We are so excited & honored to be featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert! Welcome everyone!!"

Personnel Changes at Bloomsbury USA

Because of a restructuring in the consumer division at Bloomsbury USA, three staffers are departing the company, including Cindy Loh, v-p, publishing director, who will leave at the end of February.

Executive director and COO Adrienne Vaughan thanked Loh for "her considerable contribution to Bloomsbury over eight years, including championing the new direction for adult fiction, and leading the children's division through the development of major bestselling and award-winning authors including Sarah J. Maas, Brigid Kemmerer and Renée Watson."

Chicago Distribution Center to Distribute University of Texas Press

The University of Chicago Press and the Chicago Distribution Center will distribute the University of Texas Press throughout North America, effective July 1.

Established in 1950, the University of Texas Press publishes scholarly books in a range of disciplines, including American studies, anthropology, architecture, art, Black studies, classics, gender studies, film and media studies, food studies, history, Latin American and pre-Columbian studies, Latinx studies, and Middle Eastern studies. In addition, UT Press publishes books of general interest on a variety of subjects, including history, current affairs, the visual arts, music, and food. In its 70 years, UT Press has published more than 3,000 books and currently publishes some 100 books and 13 journals annually.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Priyanka Chopra Jonas on GMA, the View, Tonight

Today Show: Rich Diviney, author of The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance (Random House, $28, 9780593133941).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Al Roker, author of You Look So Much Better in Person: True Stories of Absurdity and Success (Hachette Go, $28, 9780316426794).

Good Morning America: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, author of Unfinished: A Memoir (Ballantine, $28, 9781984819215). She will also appear on the View and the Tonight Show.

Also on GMA: Dr. Jennifer Ashton, author of The New Normal: A Roadmap to Resilience in the Pandemic Era (Morrow, $26.99, 9780063083233). She will be on Live with Kelly and Ryan, too.

Drew Barrymore Show: Jen Atkin, author of Blowing My Way to the Top: How to Break the Rules, Find Your Purpose, and Create the Life and Career You Deserve (Harper Wave, $27.99, 9780062940551).

New Projects from Obamas' Higher Ground Productions

Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground Productions has unveiled a slate of six new development projects at Netflix, including a film adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's novel Exit West, starring Riz Ahmed and directed by Yann Demange (White Boy Rick); and a YA series based on Angeline Boulley's forthcoming debut novel, Firekeeper's Daughter, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

"We created Higher Ground to tell great stories," the Obamas said in a statement. "This group of projects builds upon that goal and the incredible path forged by films like Crip Camp, Becoming, and the Oscar-winning American Factory. From science fiction to the beauty of our natural world to the relationships that define us, Higher Ground continues to strive for fresh perspectives, compelling characters, and a healthy dose of inspiration. We couldn't be more proud to team up with the brilliant artists behind each of these stories. Each of them has something important to say."

Netflix co-CEO and CCO Ted Sarandos commented: "It has been thrilling to watch President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and the Higher Ground team dive into original programming and produce incredible stories. American FactoryCrip Camp and Becoming have captivated audiences all around the world, and their new slate highlights the variety and depth of programming on the horizon as well as new and exciting storytellers."

The recently announced projects join animated children's show Ada Twist, Scientist--based on the books by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts--from executive producer Chris Nee and docuseries The G Word with Adam Conover, loosely based on Michael Lewis's book The Fifth Risk.

Books & Authors

Awards: AAP PROSE, Hawkins Winners; Reading the West Nominees

The winners of the Association of American Publishers's 2021 PROSE Excellence Awards, which recognize scholarly publications that are best-in-class in five categories, are:

Biological and Life Sciences: Desert Navigator: The Journey of an Ant by Rüdiger Wehner (Harvard University Press)
Humanities: Ancient Maya Politics: A Political Anthropology of the Classic Period 150-900 CE by Simon Martin (Cambridge University Press)
Physical Sciences and Mathematics: A Philosophical Approach to MOND: Assessing the Milgromian Research Program in Cosmology by David Merritt (Cambridge University Press)
Social Sciences: Mind Over Media: Propaganda Education for a Digital Age by Renee Hobbs, foreword by Douglas Rushkoff (Norton)
Reference Works: Frogfishes: Biodiversity, Zoogeography, and Behavioral Ecology by Theodore W. Pietsch and Rachel J. Arnold (Johns Hopkins University Press)

The five winners were competitors for the program's overall prize, the R.R. Hawkins Award, which was won by the Humanities category winner, Ancient Maya Politics: A Political Anthropology of the Classic Period 150-900 CE by Simon Martin (Cambridge University Press).


Nominees for the Reading the West Awards, sponsored by the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association and honoring the best books set in one of the MPIBA states or created by an author or artist in the MPIBA area, have been announced in nine categories and can be seen here.

Book Review

Review: How to Order the Universe

How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada, trans. by Elizabeth Bryer (Tin House Books, $19.95 hardcover, 180p., 9781951142308, February 16, 2021)

María José Ferrada's How to Order the Universe offers an imaginative view of Pinochet-era Chile through a child's eyes, as she assists her father in his work as a traveling salesman of Kramp brand hardware items. The world appears complex, fascinating and a little magical to M, the narrator. Elizabeth Bryer's whimsical translation from the Spanish feels appropriate to M's exceptional perspective.

Ferrada's playful, poignant novel opens with the story of a young man named D, whose "first sales attempt happened the same day a man took a step on the moon." He meets a beautiful woman. They marry and have a child, M, and so the narrator enters her own story. She begins accompanying D on his sales calls when she is seven. M's school attendance is sporadic; her work as D's assistant is important to both of them, and M's mother is a bit detached. Father and daughter are close, in their dreamy interactions with each other and with a small community of salesmen and shopkeepers. She is treated as a small adult: "in recognition, I think, of the fact that I had grasped the complexities of human beings at such a young age, D showed me how to blow smoke rings. Small rings that crossed the city, expanding and dissolving in the distance."

M's narrative voice is solemn, serious. She is a little obsessed with categories and classification. D's understanding of the world, and therefore M's as well, involves hammer, nails, the moon and stars. "Every person tries to explain the inner workings of things with whatever is at hand. I, at seven years of age, had reached out my hand, and had grasped a Kramp catalogue." She studies the organization of items for sale in shops: "I thought that discovering the sequence would bring me a little closer to comprehending the classifications used by the Great Carpenter to order the universe." M is a precocious philosopher, but also a child, for whom certain realities eventually come as a surprise. When the family circumstances unexpectedly change, "There were two possibilities: A. Precariousness had always been with us, and I'd never noticed. B. Something had changed. Whichever it was, my childhood memories fractured: crack."

How to Order the Universe is fanciful, sweet and moving, as M gradually registers and questions the changing world she inhabits, wrestling with violence, absence, the ability to make one's own luck "with well-shined shoes and the right outfit." Much of this evolution is filtered through her irrevocably changed relationship with D. "We had been deeply united by a catalogue of hardware store products: nails, hammers, door viewers, screws. But that catalogue no longer existed." This is a beautifully translated, thought-provoking novel of profound themes and childlike wonder. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Through a child's clever but innocent point of view, this inventive debut novel considers family, hope and the harsher realities of 1980s Chile.

The Bestsellers Bestsellers in January

The bestselling audiobooks at independent bookstores during January:

1. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Macmillan Audio)
3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Penguin Random House Audio)
4. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (HarperAudio)
5. Writers & Lovers by Lily King (Blackstone Publishing)
6. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Penguin Random House Audio)
7. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (Macmillan Audio)
8. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Simon & Schuster Audio)
9. The Push by Ashley Audrain (Penguin Random House Audio)
10. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (HarperAudio)
1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. Wintering by Katherine May (Penguin Random House Audio)
4. Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Penguin Random House Audio)
5. Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo (Hachette Audio)
6. You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar (Hachette Audio)
7. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Tantor Media)
8. Becoming by Michelle Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
9. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (Penguin Random House Audio)
10. The Best of Me by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)

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