Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 2, 2021

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine


AAP Sales: January Sales Up 10.3%; Trade Up 21.3%

Total net book sales in January rose 10.3%, to $1.2 billion, compared to January 2020, representing sales of 1,359 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.

Trade sales had a particularly good start for the year, with total net trade sales rising 21.3%, to $689.5 million, led by gains in mass market, up 39.9%, to $19.5 million; hardcovers, up 25.5%, to $244.2 million; physical audio, up 21.8%, to $2 million; and e-books, up 21%, to $91.6 million.

Sales by category in January 2021 compared to January 2020:

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black

Three Stories Books, Lemont, Ill., Opening This Weekend

Three Stories Books, a children's bookstore in Lemont, Ill., is officially opening tomorrow, reported.

The bookstore sells new titles ranging from board books to YA, along with a selection of gifts. The store is divided into three main sections--picture books, board books and YA--and owner Sommer Steele told Patch that when it comes to curating titles, she focuses equally on bestsellers, local authors and illustrators, and lesser-known discovery titles.

Steele is also the owner of a local store called Mabel's Market, and many of the gifts at Three Stories Books have been sourced from the makers who supply wares for Mabel's Market. Once pandemic restrictions are lifted, Steele plans to host storytime sessions and book signings.

"It's going to be a building process," Steele said. "We are ready to open up and invite people to see the amazing space we've created and to explore our books and gifts, and we will build onto our offerings as we grow and learn together with our customers."

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!

Amazon to Open Fulfillment Center in Amarillo, Tex.

Amazon plans to open a one million-square-foot fulfillment center in Amarillo, Tex., by early 2022. Mark Marzano, director of operations at Amazon, said, "We look forward to becoming part of the fabric of the Amarillo community and are thrilled to be able to expand our operations in the Texas panhandle. We're grateful for the support we've received from local and state leaders."

Mayor Ginger Nelson said Amazon "will have a significant presence in Amarillo that will provide a boost to not only the Amarillo economy, but the economy of the entire Texas Panhandle."

Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner added that the "economic development success is a major achievement not only for Potter County, but Amarillo as a whole. The addition of this facility will go on to fuel economic growth for years to come."

Shelf Awareness Delivers Indie Pre-Order E-Blast

On Wednesday, Shelf Awareness sent our monthly pre-order e-blast to three-quarters of a million of the country's best book readers. The e-blast went to 750,327 customers of 169 participating independent bookstores.

The mailing features eight upcoming titles selected by Shelf Awareness editors and a sponsored title. Customers can buy these books via "pre-order" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on each sending store's website. A key feature is that bookstore partners can easily change title selections to best reflect the tastes of their customers and can customize the mailing with links, images and promotional copy of their own.

The pre-order e-blasts are sent the last Wednesday of each month; the next will go out on Wednesday, April 28. Stores interested in learning more can visit our program registration page or contact our partner program team via e-mail.

For a sample of Wednesday's pre-order e-blast, see this one from the Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne, Vt.

Arcadia Publishing Launching LOL Jokes Series

Later this month Arcadia Publishing will launch a series of locally themed, kid-friendly joke books called LOL Jokes. It is the second series from the Arcadia Children's Books imprint and is being written by Craig Yoe, a cartoonist and the former creative director for the Muppets, Nickelodeon and Disney.

The first five titles in the series will be LOL Jokes: Pittsburgh, LOL Jokes: Denver, LOL Jokes: New York and LOL Jokes: Cleveland. The series is intended for children seven and up, and along with jokes and puns, the books will include facts about the titular city, bits of history and engaging graphics.

Nancy Ellwood, publishing director for Arcadia Children's Books, said the books "really celebrate the history, culture and stories of American cities with awesome jokes and fascinating facts. They're absolutely perfect for kids to share with friends and classmates from behind a mask or during a Zoom call, giving everyone a silly break."

Arcadia Publishing is best known for its hyper-local Images of America series. It publishes some 500 new titles every year and has a catalogue of 17,000 titles. In addition to Arcadia Children's Books, its imprints include the History Press, Wildsam and Pelican Publishing.


Brooklyn Library's 'Outdoor Reading Rooms'

The Brooklyn Public Library "is welcoming visitors to enjoy the bliss and safety of reading outside by installing outdoor reading rooms with seating and wi-fi connectivity in twenty of their locations this spring," Untapped New York reported. Some locations will also provide book carts for browsing. In addition, Brooklyn Public Library will offer outdoor programming including Story Walks (panels of stories or songs and rhymes placed on fences).

At the Central Library of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, the outdoor reading room, designed by artist Heinrich Spillman, is particularly striking. "The seating is all made of wood reclaimed from landfills,... with the majority of the wood sourced from Green-Wood Cemetery," Untapped New York wrote. "The wood comes from a variety of tree species and according to the library, are 'treated by fire scorching, using the ancient Japanese technique of Shou Suji Ban, with wood sealers and/or clear varnishes or are intentionally left exposed to the decaying elements of nature." Titled Celestial Heroes Banquet, each work is a concept for seating in a public park-like setting.

Personnel Changes at Abrams

Jenny Choy has been promoted to director, school and library marketing from associate director in the Abrams children's marketing department.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ilona Bannister on Weekend Edition

Ellen: Martha Stewart, author of Martha Stewart's Very Good Things: Clever Tips & Genius Ideas for an Easier, More Enjoyable Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9781328508263).

NPR's Weekend Edition: Ilona Bannister, author of When I Ran Away (Doubleday, $27, 9780385546171).

Movies/TV: Other People's Clothes

The U.K. office of Mark Gordon Pictures has acquired film and TV rights to Calla Henkel's debut novel Other People's Clothes "in a competitive situation," Deadline reported. Emmy-nominated Unorthodox co-writer and co-creator Alexa Karolinski is adapting the book. Executive producers will be Beth Pattinson and Mark Gordon for Mark Gordon Pictures, and Danny Davids.

Hodder & Stoughton imprint Sceptre is publishing the novel in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand July 8, with Doubleday publishing it later in the U.S.

"I am extremely excited about partnering with Mark Gordon to create the deranged world of Other People's Clothes for the screen, and I can't wait to see these girls come to life in all their dark sparking intensity," said Henkel, an American artist and playwright living in Berlin.

Producer Pattinson added: "We are completely delighted to be working with Calla and Alexa to bring this compelling and propulsive novel to life. Calla's evocation of Berlin in 2009 is full of humor and insight combined with a dark, twisted narrative which had us gripped from page 1. With Alexa, we have found the perfect writer to adapt the material--not only does she know Berlin intimately, but her writing is full of emotion and tension and is the perfect complement to Calla's narrative. It's a privilege to be working with these two brilliant women."

Books & Authors

Awards: Mahfouz Medal Winner; Oregon Book Finalists

Algerian writer Ahmed Taibaoui has won the 2021 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his novel The Disappearance of Mr. Nobody (Ikhtifa' al-Sayyid La Ahad). Sponsored by the American University in Cairo Press, the award honors "the best contemporary novel published in Arabic in the previous two years." The winner receives $5,000, translation into English and publication by the Press's fiction imprint, Hoopoe.

The judges said in part that "Ahmed Taibaoui's novel reverberates with echoes of Algeria's violent past, from the struggle against colonialism to the civil war and all that has followed... Out of the [novel's] somber and intense style, vivid characters emerge. This is a novel of unpleasant truths... All of this within a framework that imbues the novel with the feel of exciting and suspenseful detective fiction, and using a deft narrative style that does not conceal its writer's intelligence and creativity."


The finalists for the 2021 Oregon Book Awards have been announced and can be seen here. Winners in each of the seven categories will be announced on a special episode of the Archive Project, Sunday, May 2, on OPB Radio. Winners receive a $1,000 cash award.

Reading with... Jules Gibbs

Jules Gibbs is the author of the poetry collections Snakes & Babies (2021) and Bliss Crisis (2012), both from the Sheep Meadow Press. Her writing has appeared in many journals and anthologies, and she serves as poetry editor for the Progressive and for Corresponding Voices, a bilingual magazine of cross-cultural and intersectional poetics based at Punto de Contacto Gallery, where she also curates the Cruel April reading series. She has won awards from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation in Poetry, and was selected by the poet Kim Addonizio for the Best New Poets anthology. Gibbs has taught literature and creative writing at Syracuse University since 2010.

On your nightstand now:

Having and Being Had by Eula Biss, a collection of essays about our weird, conflicted lives under late-stage capitalism, but so much better than any description. Biss said she didn't know what she was writing, exactly, as she was writing it--were they prose poems? essays?--but it hardly matters. She can propel you (thrillingly) from the quotidian to the cosmic in the turn of one finely crafted sentence. I read her as if to study such economy of language--how does she take her readers so far, so fast?--but in truth, I read her for sheer enjoyment.

Also on my nightstand is Black Hole Survival Guide by Janna Levin. The confirmation that black holes even exist is a relatively new one, and to read about them is mind-bending. I love everything about black holes, even though I understand almost none of it. I think it's oddly fortifying to read about things that exist outside the human scale--in the context of black holes, everything that's happening in our tiny existence is laughably insignificant; this makes me--paradoxically--feel more invested in life and in the preservation of our lives on this miraculous planet, but without the solipsism.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved Scottish author Kenneth Grahame's 1908 novel, The Wind in the Willows, probably because I spent my childhood in the woods, talking to myself and to trees and to animals, inventing stories. My mother read it to me at bedtime, and it's still one of the most beautiful, comforting feelings I can conjure. Also, when I was very small, I loved The Bed Book, poems for kids by Sylvia Plath, which... who even knew Sylvia Plath wrote a children's book?

Your top five authors:

Joy Williams. Emily Dickinson. James Baldwin. Toni Morrison. Anne Carson. This question isn't really fair; impossible to name just five!

Book you've faked reading:

I am not sure I ever faked reading a book, but I saw a guy on a beach in Sicily fake-reading once, as a way, I guess, to look smart and sexy and pick up women--is this the true purpose of fake reading? I'll have to give it a try. I have mis-read or failed to comprehend several books in my life, most notably Ulysses. My inability to read the book bugged me so much that I audited a course on Ulysses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, taught by a Joyce scholar.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'd go door-to-door evangelizing for Toni Morrison's novels, but especially Sula; it's short in form but vast in mind, one of those works that keeps unfolding with each new reading, perpetually shifting and revealing itself. It's lush and poetic, marvelously crafted, wildly and richly imagined, and contains so many complex and difficult and necessary truths about race--but also about the many forms that love takes, and about the human capacity to heal ourselves and each other.

Book you've bought for the cover:

On the Nature of Things by the Roman poet Lucretius, a book I purchased around age 18, in a used bookstore in Cambridge, Mass. I love the weird cover, which has a circle with a kind of stylized corona (it actually looks like some depictions of the coronavirus) or a dandelion gone to seed balancing on top of an orange triangle and a white square. It was a Harvard student's castoff, and I figured it must have all the answers to life in it. And it kind of does.

Book you hid from your parents:

The "S" volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Also, some trashy romance novel I was allowed to purchase at a gas station when we were on a long road trip, moving to Kentucky. I earmarked the naughty bits and hid it under the bed.

Book that changed your life:

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov is a book I return to often to reinvigorate my own relationship to language, and to remind myself that memory is at least 98% invention--and it's the invention part that matters most.

Favorite line from a book:

In Speak, Memory, Nabokov is looking at a butterfly under a microscope, wondering at its "translucent miniatures, pocket wonderlands, neat little worlds of hushed luminous hues," and muses: "There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic." If that "delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge" doesn't offer one of the best descriptions of poetry, I don't know what does.

Five books you'll never part with:

Another impossible question! I would never part with any book, but here are five, off the top of my head, among thousands:

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Jesus' Son
, Denis Johnson
James Welch, Winter in the Blood

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

Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky--I read it on the crowded subway every day, commuting to work in Boston. It messed with my head in the best ways, but I'm not sure I can ever get the firstness back, that feeling of being trapped in Raskolnikov's madness, the feeling of another mind usurping or occupying my own.

Book Review

Review: Thirst

Thirst by Amélie Nothomb, trans. by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions, $15 paperback, 96p., 9781609456603, April 13, 2021)

To portray Jesus Christ in fiction is not new--some would agree he was always a novel creation. From Nikos Kazantzakis's classic The Last Temptation of Christ to the ongoing bestselling manga series Saint Young Men, Jesus moves copies. Prolific writer Amélie Nothomb (Tokyo Fiancée; Pétronille), who's published a book annually since her 1992 debut, chooses Jesus as her 2019 protagonist in Thirst, her sixth title translated by Alison Anderson. At just 96 pages, Thirst is an easy single-sitting book, but its sly irreverence encourages repeat readings.

Nothomb sticks vaguely to the known script: Pontius Pilate sentences Jesus, he bears his cross, he's crucified with two thieves, he dies, he rises. But here, Nothomb grants Jesus first-person intimacy as "the most incarnate of human beings." Diverging dramatically from the recognizable, Jesus reveals his deepest thoughts with humor, fear, misgiving, but mostly aching honesty. He also proves himself a Proust fan.

Jesus's story begins with a trial during which 37 recipients of his miracles air endless grudges: the water-to-wine Cana newlyweds were humiliated because Jesus waited too long to transform the good stuff; the formerly possessed Capernaum man contended exorcism induced boredom; Lazarus griped about his lingering corpse odor. Condemned to die, fear overwhelms Jesus: "I too am afraid of suffering." During his imprisoned final night--even as the Gospels insist "this night I am writing from does not exist"--Jesus asserts new truths: he misses Joseph; Mary is a "far better person" than he; he loves Mary Magdalene (he called her Madeleine because he didn't like double names and "it's never a good idea to confuse your sweetheart with your mother"). He dares to dream of a future in which he lives.

Jesus refuses water so he might arm himself with thirst as preparation for the tortures ahead, because thirst "can become so great that all other suffering will be deadened." As he struggles the next day to carry his cross to his final destination, he repeatedly refutes the accounting in the Gospels--"The evangelists were nowhere near me when this happened... they didn't know me." Naming--and discarding--one misinterpretation after another throughout the narrative, the singular phrase Jesus ultimately claims is "I thirst." Thirst will be the affecting leitmotif for endurance, relief, satisfaction... and even God.

Nothomb, a baroness who has rewritten her own provenance story (she alleges Japanese birth despite Belgian records), seems rather practiced in embellishing history. With Thirst, she entices lucky readers with a dissenting, potentially heretical, refreshingly fascinating interpretation of an all-too-familiar life. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: A refreshing and irreverent glimpse at Jesus's most unguarded human thoughts, from his condemnation by crucifixion to his everlasting resurrection.  

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