Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley

Quotation of the Day

'It's the Hardest Thing I've Ever Had to Do'

Michael and Emma Fusco-Straub (photo:

"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It was backbreaking. I was gone from the house for 10 hours a day, and most days I was lucky if I walked in the door to say good night to [my kids]. The good thing is that we learned so much that the store right now, as a whole, runs better than it ever would have if we hadn't gone through it. When things get back to normal, I think it's going to be operating on a level I never even thought could exist.

--Michael Fusco-Straub, co-owner of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y., who was one of six independent booksellers interviewed by the Washington Post for a piece on how their businesses weathered the past year

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi


Bookstore Sales Down 'Only' 16.6% in January

In the 11th month of data reflecting public health measures taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, including the closure of many bookstores for a time and limited access since then, in January sales at bookstores dropped 16.6%, to $797 million, compared to January 2020, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates.

Between May, when bookstore sales plummeted 59.9%, and November, bookstore sales dropped in a range between 21.5% and 35.4%. In December, the drop of 15.3% was an improvement, and January's 16.6% drop continues this trend.

Total retail sales in January rose 7.8%, to $519.6 billion, compared to January 2020.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

Kickstarter Launches Partnership with Bookshop

Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has partnered with to sell titles that resulted from successful Kickstarter campaigns, GamesRadar reported.

A new Kickstarter Publishing page features several curated lists of formerly crowd-funded titles. For sale on the page are comic books and graphic novels, memoirs, art books, children's books and literary projects of all kinds.

Since 2009, comics and publishing Kickstarter campaigns have collectively raised more than $310 million from almost four million backers. All commissions earned from sales of titles featured on the Kickstarter Publishing page will be donated to NYC Books Through Bars, a volunteer-run group that donates books to incarcerated people across the country.

Quirk Books: In Reorganization, Founder David Borgenicht Returns as President

After nearly 20 years at Quirk Books, Brett Cohen has resigned as president and publisher. He was named president in 2013 and publisher in 2018.

David Borgenicht

With Cohen's departure, Quirk Books founder and owner David Borgenicht is returning to his role as president. He will be responsible for leading the executive team, envisioning and driving the growth of the company, as well as overseeing business and partnership development. Borgenicht is also the creator of the Worst Case Scenario brand and co-author of all of the books in the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook series. He founded Quirk Books in 2002.

At the same time, Jhanteigh Kupihea has been promoted to publisher and will lead the creative group, overseeing design, editorial, and managing editorial. She will set the vision for a list of 25-30 adult and children's titles in a range of genres that "reflect pop culture in purpose-driven, unconventional, and entertaining ways." She will continue to edit select titles in her new role. Kupihea joined Quirk in 2018 as editorial director and earlier was a senior editor at Atria.

In other staff changes, Nicole De Jackmo is taking on the newly created role of senior v-p, sales, marketing, and publicity, and will support the frontlist and backlist, as well as manage Quirk's relationships with its sales partners, including Quirk's distributor, Penguin Random House Publisher Services. De Jackmo joined Quirk Books in 2011 and has headed marketing and publicity campaigns for the company's titles.

In other promotions, Megan DiPasquale has been promoted to v-p of finance; Andie Reid has been promoted to art director; Jane Morley has been promoted to managing editor; Mandy Sampson has been promoted to senior production and sales manager; and Kelsey Hoffman has been promoted to senior publicity and marketing manager. Quirk will soon be hiring four new staff members.

With the changes, Moneka Hewlett, v-p, director of sales, has left the company.

Borgenicht commented: "Quirk has a unique opportunity to significantly transform its culture and organization. These promotions and reorganizations positions Quirk to grow creatively and move forward with renewed energy and excitement toward a larger vision and long-term plan. While we will miss Brett and Moneka, the team I've put in place is amazing--and we are all excited to think big and work together to make great new things happen."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Reduced Discovery; Outdoor Sales

Todd Dickinson, co-owner of Aaron's Books in Lititz, Pa., reported that the bookstore is open for browsing at a capacity that is "a lot more restricted" than the state's guidelines, and the interior of the store has been rearranged to make things more open and spacious rather than "cozy and comfortable." Dickinson noted that on slower days the capacity limit doesn't have much of an impact, but on busy days they have to monitor numbers and sometimes put an at-capacity sign out front.

Prior to the pandemic, board games and tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons were major parts of the store's operations. Aaron's Books held frequent game nights and there was a demo table where customers could try out new games. That demo table and the in-person gaming events are gone for the time being, and with customers no longer able to try out new games in the store, sales of more complex strategy games have "really been slow." Some smaller, family-focused games continue to sell well, however.

Reflecting on 2020, Dickinson said the job itself, along with customer buying habits, has changed. The team typically takes pride in its curation and the discovery that happens in the store, but with browsing being so limited there's simply less discovery going on. The store is generally selling more copies of books that people are already aware of and comfortable with, and the team spends more time and effort per book when they fulfill online orders.

While the store was down overall in 2020, Aaron's Books did have a "really helpful fourth quarter," and the store saw more return online business than Dickinson would have expected. The start of 2021 has been slow, he added, but the first quarter "is always slow." At the same time, online sales remain much higher than they were pre-pandemic, and there seems to be a greater awareness of the store's online capabilities.

Looking ahead, Dickinson said he and his team are very optimistic about the summer. They're excited about the summer list, and they hope they'll be able to have more people in store who can discover books that aren't already "on the tip of everyone's tongue." They'll be frequently evaluating the feasibility of in-store events and hope to have the gaming table up and running again, though it's anyone's guess when exactly customers are "going to want to sit side-by-side."


For Riffraff in Providence, R.I., yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the store being closed for in-store browsing. While owners Emma Ramadan and Tom Roberge were doing outdoor sales in their courtyard during the summer and fall, customers have not been inside their shop since March 2020. Outdoor sales ended around Halloween, Ramadan said, and since then the store has  been doing only curbside pick-up and shipping, with the exception of one holiday-themed outdoor market held near the end of November.

Riffraff is also a bar, and Ramadan noted that whenever they've done outdoor shopping they've set up a small outdoor version of their bar as well, but when outdoor sales aren't going on, that side of the business is effectively on hiatus. Early on in the pandemic she and Roberge were doing things like creating bottled cocktails that people could buy and selling bottles of wine and six-packs of beer, but eventually they decided to just focus on the bookstore and getting their book inventory online.

Outdoor sales will resume during the first weekend in April if the weather cooperates, and Ramadan said she's excited to restart partnerships with several local businesses, such as an ice cream vendor and a churro vendor, who will set up shop in the courtyard. She and Roberge also hope to "really celebrate" Independent Bookstore Day this year.

Asked whether she and Roberge ever considered opening for limited browsing or appointment shopping, Ramadan said they made the decision to remain closed very early on and they've stuck with it, and they won't reopen until all of the staff is fully vaccinated.

The store's sales last year were "nowhere near" a normal year, she noted, but neither were the store's costs. All she really cares about is that "we're still standing and we didn't compromise" on what felt right, and she's "proud and happy we got to this point."

It couldn't have happened, Ramadan said, without support from the bookstore's community and understanding from the bookstore's staff. Federal and state grants were also a huge help in making sure they could remain closed to browsing without worrying about the store's long-term survival. As long as the store can reopen by the fall, she added, it will all have been worth it. --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Walter LaFeber

Walter LaFeber, an author and Cornell University history professor "whose unvarnished version of American diplomacy drew hundreds of students and spectators to his Saturday morning lectures, and whose acolytes went on to influence the nation's foreign policy," died March 9, the New York Times reported. He was 87. LaFeber "valued the roles that institutions played in shaping history, but he never underestimated the influence of individuals," enlivening his books and lectures by fleshing out characters from Aaron Burr and John Quincy Adams to George W. Bush, and even Michael Jordan in his book Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism (1999).

His other books include The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (1963); Creation of the American Empire: U.S. Diplomatic History (1973); The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective (1978); The American Age: U.S. Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad Since 1750 (1989); America, Russia and the Cold War (the most recent edition of which was published in 2006); and The Deadly Bet: LBJ, Vietnam, and the 1968 Election (2005).

LaFeber "was considered to be a key member and student of the Wisconsin School of American diplomatic history," the Cornell Daily Sun noted in a tribute. "While his work forgoes typical political labels, he is considered a 'moderate revisionist' who characterized the 19th century American empire as driven by economic imperialism rather than morality or security.

He also had a strong presence outside the university as a prolific writer and communicator, writing and co-authoring 20 books and dozens of articles, speaking at universities and appearing in documentaries such as PBS's American Century, BBC's End of the Cold War and Walter Cronkite's American Presidencies."

Glenn Altschuler, a longtime colleague, said, "Between 1959 and Walt LaFeber's retirement almost 50 years later, he was, without question, the most iconic, the most admired, the most respected, the most identifiable professor who made a difference in the lives of thousands and thousands of students." 


Oprah's Book Club Picks: Marilynne Robinson's Gilead Quartet

Oprah Winfrey has chosen Marilynne Robinson's four Gilead novels (GileadHomeLilaJack) as her 87th, 88th, 89th and 90th Oprah's Book Club selections. Winfrey said Robinson "is one of our greatest living authors, and in the Gilead novels she's written a quartet of masterpieces. The more closely I read them, the more I find to appreciate, and the more they show the way in seeing the beauty in the ordinary. I'm thrilled to share them all with you."

Describing Winfrey as "a singular voice in this country and in the world," Robinson said, "It is wonderful and amazing that my books will have the kind of attention only she could bring to them."

Over the next two months, Winfrey will lead an exploration of the universe of Gilead, beginning with Gilead. A reading schedule will be posted on the Oprah's Book Club social platforms. She will also conduct an interview with the author, whom Winfrey calls "a philosopher/teacher, as well as one of our most important fiction writers," which will air on dates to be determined on Apple TV+. 

Sales Floor Display: Bookery Manchester

"Don't make Oprah sad--pick up one of her book club picks!" Bookery in Manchester, N.H., posted on Facebook, responding quickly to Oprah's Winfrey's latest Book Club picks with a display and creative signage. 

Personnel Changes at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Chronicle Books; Abrams

At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Shara Alexander has been promoted to publicity director, lifestyle.

Emma Gordon has been promoted to senior publicist.

Marissa Page has been promoted to publicist.

Kelly Shi has joined as publicity associate.

Liz Anderson has been promoted to associate director, marketing.

Meghan Gocke has been promoted to associate director, digital marketing and operations.

Lauren Wengrovitz has been promoted to marketing associate, Books for Young Readers.

Benny Sisson has joined as marketing operations associate.


At Chronicle Books:

Courtney Payne has been promoted to director of trade sales.

Sofie Bercaw has been promoted to distribution coordinator.

Anna-Lisa Sandstrum has been promoted to associate director of sales and marketing, school and library.

Carrie Gao has been promoted to marketing coordinator, school and library.

Samantha Chambers has been promoted to publicity and social media coordinator, children's.


In the Abrams children's marketing department:

Borana Greku has been promoted to senior manager, marketing from marketing manager.

Megan Evans has been promoted to assistant manager, marketing from marketing coordinator.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Kazuo Ishiguro on Fresh Air, GMA

Fresh Air: Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Klara and the Sun (Knopf, $28, 9780593318171). He will also be on Good Morning America tomorrow.

Rachael Ray Show: Jenna Bush Hager, author of Everything Beautiful in Its Time: Seasons of Love and Loss (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062960627)

Ellen: Giada De Laurentiis, author of Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out (Rodale, $32.50, 9780593138434).

Watch What Happens Live: Shep Rose, author of Average Expectations: Lessons in Lowering the Bar (Gallery, $28, 9781982159795).

Tonight Show: Michelle Obama, author of Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers (Delacorte, $18.99, 9780593303740).

TV: The Essex Serpent; The Girl Before

Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager) will play the male lead opposite Claire Danes in the Apple TV+ drama series The Essex Serpent, based on Sarah Perry's novel, Deadline reported. Written by Anna Symon and directed by Clio Barnard, the project started production March 15.


Jessica Plummer (EastEnders) has joined Gugu Mbatha-Raw and David Oyelowo in HBO Max and BBC One's limited series The Girl Before, based on the psychological thriller by J.P. Delaney, who is overseeing the adaptation, Deadline reported. 

Lisa Brühlmann will direct, with Rhonda Smith producing the four-part series from 42, the U.K. production company behind Netflix's The English Game and BBC-Netflix animation Watership Down. Marissa Lestrade (Deep StateCasualty) is co-writing episodes.

Books & Authors

Awards: Zalaznick History, Sami Rohr Inspiration Recipients

Tracy Campbell has won the New-York Historical Society's annual Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History for The Year of Peril: America in 1942 (Yale University Press). The award recognizes the best book of the year in the field of American history or biography, and Campbell receives $50,000, a medal and the title of American Historian Laureate.

Pam Schafler, chair of New-York Historical Society's board of trustees, said, "Tracy Campbell has written a remarkable book, offering a refreshingly new perspective on America's entry into the Second World War, focused on the battles being waged on the home front, rather than in the Pacific. In the eyes of our judging committee, The Year of Peril is meticulously researched and eminently readable, bringing to the fore the myriad crises FDR faced as he tried to forge some sense of common purpose among the citizens of a nation still grappling with the aftermath of the Great Depression and the cries of isolationists who objected to America's involvement in other countries' conflicts."

Tracy Campbell is the E. Vernon Smith and Eloise C. Smith Professor of American History at the University of Kentucky. His previous books include The Gateway Arch: A Biography and Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition, 1742-2004.


Nicole Krauss has won the inaugural Sami Rohr Inspiration Award for Fiction and will be presented with the $36,000 award at a virtual ceremony in June. The Inspiration Award, introduced this year to mark the 15th anniversary of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, recognizes "a well-known author whose books have made a valuable contribution to Jewish literature and who will serve as a role model to Fellows of the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute. "

Krauss is the author of Man Walks Into a Room, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year in 2003; Forest Dark; Great House, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Orange Prize; The History of Love, winner of the Saroyan Prize for International Literature and France's Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger; and To Be a Man, her first collection of short stories, which was published in November 2020.

In 2007, she was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists, and in 2010 she was chosen by the New Yorker for its "Twenty Under Forty" list. Her fiction has been published in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Harper's, Esquire, and The Best American Short Stories. She is the first Writer-in-Residence at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University.

Reading with... Perri Klass

photo: Paolo Cagnacci

Dr. Perri Klass is professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University, and co-director of NYU Florence. She is the author of Quirky Kids: Understanding and Supporting Your Child with Developmental Differences, written with Eileen Costello. Klass attended Harvard Medical School, and trained in pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital. She writes the weekly column "The Checkup" for the New York Times, and she has also written for the Washington Post, the New England Journal of Medicine and Vogue. She is the national medical director of Reach Out and Read, which works to promote reading to young children and provides books at regular pediatric check-ups. Her most recent book is A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future (Norton), about how victories over infant and child mortality have changed the world.

On your nightstand now:

The American Senator by Anthony Trollope--my father loved Trollope, and he was right. A Book of Medical Discourses by Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, the first African American woman to earn a medical degree, graduating in 1864 from the New England Female Medical College; she published this work of medical advice in 1880. She and other early women doctors are discussed in Out of the Dead House: Nineteenth Century Women Physicians and the Writing of Medicine by Susan Wells, fascinating analysis of medicine and writing. I've got The Doctor Who Fooled the World by Brian Deer, his book about the fraudulent claim, which he did so much to disprove, about the so-called dangers of the MMR vaccine, and all the damage that did. For fiction, I've got Margaret Drabble's The Pure Gold Baby. And, finally, I've got Anne Fadiman's beautiful book about her father, The Wine Lover's Daughter.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Torn between Little Women (I mean, I have a daughter named Josephine, and on Christmas 2019, when we went together to the 10 a.m. showing of the new movie version, I told her how lucky I was to have the right daughter Josephine, the one who could appreciate the honor) and Harriet the Spy--I was deeply moved by books about girls who wanted to be writers.

Your top five authors:

(I decided to include authors who have prompted--or at least tempted--me to join their literary societies, or attend conferences, and I still ran over.)  Barbara Pym, Anthony Trollope, Mary McCarthy, E.F. Benson, Margery Sharp, Maud Hart Lovelace.

Book you've faked reading:

As someone who is just publishing a parenting book, can I admit that I faked reading the parenting books I was given when my own children were young? Nothing I read seemed to apply to my children or our life--or worse, everything applied at one time or another. The books, even the most positive and supportive, seemed to assume various kinds of consistency--children's personalities, household schedules--while I generally felt I was making things up from day to day. Maybe that's why when I finally wrote--or co-wrote--a parenting book, Quirky Kids, it was about children who, as my co-author likes to say, are the ones you weren't expecting.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp, anything by Barbara Pym, and Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy; I have my students read it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

So many of the old Virago editions, and now I buy Persephone editions partly for the gorgeous endpapers, but also because I discover such brilliant mid-20th century novels that I didn't know.

Book you hid from your parents:

I actually never hid a book from my parents--and they were pretty heroic about answering questions and explaining things. I guess there was a moment when a friend lent me her clandestine copy of a little work called Naked Came the Stranger, published in 1969, when I wondered whether I should let my mother see it. But it turned out my mother knew the whole story and thought it was pretty funny--it was an intentionally terrible group-written "dirty book," a hoax that turned into a bestseller.

Book that changed your life:

Fighting for Life by S. Josephine Baker--she was an early public health doctor in New York City, and her cause was bringing down infant and child mortality. She writes with a voice that is so startlingly frank and passionate that reading her story made me want desperately to tell that larger story of what it took to stop babies and children from dying so "routinely," how we got from my grandmother's generation, in which almost everyone lost children, to when I trained in pediatrics, and all children were supposed to live to grow up.

Favorite line from a book:

From Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers:

"But one has to make some sort of choice," said Harriet. "And between one desire and another, how is one to know which things are really of overmastering importance?"

"We can only know that," said Miss de Vine, "when they have overmastered us."

Five books you'll never part with:

Strong sentimental value:

Coming of Age in Samoa, Margaret Mead: my father's copy of the book that made him want to be an anthropologist, when he came across it in a box of books on a merchant marine ship during World War II.

Everyone in This House Makes Babies, Sheila Solomon Klass: this is actually a memoir of my parents' year in Trinidad (because my father was an anthropologist), and I get born along the way.

Baby and Child Care, Dr. Benjamin Spock: I cherish the battered paperback copy that my mother took to Trinidad in the late '50s, hoping she might come back with a baby. I had the great honor to meet Dr. Spock when I was starting out in pediatrics, and when I talk to parents, I always think about his famous first sentence: "You know more than you think you do."

Leave It to Psmith, P.G. Wodehouse: again connected to my father; he read this aloud to me when I was a child, and helped me understand all the humor--and I've got that copy.

A Perpetual Surprise, Sheila Solomon Klass: a novella that my mother wrote out of her experience on another anthropological field trip.

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

David Copperfield: I read it in 8th grade English, a chapter at a time, and that wasn't the right way to read it--and maybe I wasn't ready for Dickens. Later on, I came to love his novels, but I never went back to this one, and I'm looking forward to it. I think I've let a sufficient number of decades pass.

Book Review

Children's Review: A Wilder Magic

A Wilder Magic by Juliana Brandt (Sourcebooks Young Readers, $16.99 hardcover, 272p., ages 7-12, 9781728209647, May 4, 2021)

Strong female characters, pertinent contemporary topics and magic rewardingly combine in this lyrically written, family-centered sophomore novel by Juliana Brandt (The Wolf of Cape Fen).

For more than a century, Sybaline's family, all described as having "dark eyes" and "pale skin that burned during the summer," has lived in an Appalachian valley where magic is an intrinsic part of the land. Over time, Sybaline's momma's family, the Larks, learned to manipulate the magic to "help the valley flourish." Now, though, the government has plans to seize the land. They've built a dam and want to flood the valley to make electricity for the war effort--the same war Sybaline's father is fighting in. Sybaline and her momma will be forced to move to the city where Sybaline, who believes the valley's magic is what makes her who she is, is certain she will be "wretched and rigid and missing all the best parts of her." So, Sybaline decides to stay behind. With the help of her cousin Nettle, Sybaline is determined to use magic to save the valley. But magic has a price. If it is used in ways "contrary to the natural world," a person will eventually suffer the consequences of going "full-magic": they turn into a tree. It's not long before Sybaline and Nettle realize that what they're attempting is not only unnatural, but also dangerous. Sybaline has to decide if saving her home is worth being personally lost to nature forever.

Brandt's A Wilder Magic is an adventure in survival. In this middle-grade novel, Brandt discusses eminent domain and its effects on its victims ("Seventy-two acres and this [apartment] is all the government gave us") while also using the concept to explore fear of change ("She'd seen the sort of life the government wanted her to have, and she knew she wouldn't survive it"). With the help of visual language, such as comparing falling leaves to "rainbow confetti" or the dam to "black suture lines covering over a deep wound," Brandt clearly expresses Sybaline's love for the valley and her anger toward the government for taking it away. These descriptions, coupled with an intriguing magic system in which "the magic existed in the land, a piece of nature itself," immerse readers in a world where the setting is just as much a character as the resourceful, spirited females who inhabit it. A Wilder Magic, with its beautiful imagery, relevant themes and inspiring female characters, is vividly enchanting. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

Shelf Talker: In this adventurous, lyrically written middle-grade novel, a girl vows to save her magical valley home from being seized by the government. 

Powered by: Xtenit