Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 26, 2021

Overlook Press: Bad Men by Julie Mae Cohen

Shadow Mountain: Highcliffe House (Proper Romance Regency) by Megan Walker

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

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: The Ministry of Time Kaliane Bradley

Akaschic Books, Ltd: Go the Fuck to Sleep Series by Adam Mansbach, Illustrated by Ricardo Cortés

Tommy Nelson: You'll Always Have a Friend: What to Do When the Lonelies Come by Emily Ley, Illustrated by Romina Galotta

Quotation of the Day

'It Was, Hands Down, Our Best Sales Day Ever'

Bart Carithers

"I'm not usually an emotional person but after closing shop last night I was on the verge of tears. You see, running an independent bookstore is a tough business. Maintaining inventory (even in a small space), meeting financial obligations (which at times seem overwhelming), and offering legit customer service (call me out if I ever drop the ball) constantly wears on my mind. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade this life for anything. I'm a small business owner who's living the dream.

"Anyway, the response we received Saturday for Independent Bookstore Day was off the charts. It was, hands down, our best sales day ever. Seriously. I cannot thank everyone enough for showing up and supporting the shop. By the end of the day, I had the wickedest case of 'register finger' I can remember. The shelves are looking a wee bit depleted, but I'll correct that in no time.... Now, excuse me, but I need to get back to work!"

--Bart Carithers, owner of Next Page Books, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in a Facebook post

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!


Independent Bookstore Day: 'Like a Holy Pilgrimage'

At Friendly City Books, Columbus, MS

After a year in which Independent Bookstore Day was postponed until late August and held virtually, 2021's event seemed all the more vibrant and celebratory, with many stores reporting large crowds and eager buyers--and  saying it was one of their best days for sales ever.

As Kris Kleindienst of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., posted on Facebook, "There was never not a line out the door from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Folks waited patiently in the rain, sincerely thanked me for their 'I visited an independent bookstore' sticker, and shopped like their lives depended on it. I know ours did. The love was extraordinary. These were people who hadn't seen the inside of our bookstore in over a year and it felt almost like a holy pilgrimage. It felt necessary and good. Like we were all waking up from a really bad dream to find out we are all ok."

At Left Bank Books

Michael Barnard of Rakestraw Books, Danville, Calif., reported that Saturday was "a great, busy day," with "lots of engagement from customers and vocal support." Sales in the late afternoon were already up at least 30% above sales on IBD last August. It was also "the best online order day since Christmas."

At the Raven Book Store

The Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan., tweeted on Saturday afternoon: "It's only 1:30 and we've already broken our all-time single-day sales record. We love you Lawrence, Kansas. Thank you for making a bookstore feel special on #IndieBookstoreDay."

At Zenith Bookstore, Duluth, Minn., "the day began with snow and cold temps, and people lined up outside the door to get in for most of the day (because of Covid we have a six-person maximum capacity)," owners Bob and Angel Dobrow wrote. "We had red, yellow, and blue balloons, cupcakes with our store's logo on them, ARC giveaways and a grand prize raffle for a wine-cheese-and-chocolate Zenith shopping spree. We are bursting with gratitude for our customers, community, and staff who made Independent Bookstore Day our second strongest sales day since opening the store almost four years ago. It was awesome."

Winners of the scavenger hunt at Green Apple Books, San Francisco

In the Denver, Colo., area, a dozen bookstores created their first joint passport program. Britt Margit Hopkins of Second Star to the Right Books, Denver, reported that some readers made it to as many as seven stores on Saturday. At Second Star to the Right, there was "a steady stream of customers (and a line out the door), many of whom came specifically for the passport program.... We ran out of many indie exclusives and found ourselves running around the store to find more fun freebies for customers well before lunch. We also hosted virtual events all day long, kicking things off with a panel series with the For Growing Minds KidLit group, an afternoon murder mystery party for Middle Readers (with an in-store Clue component), and closing out the evening in conversation with YA authors Elaine B. Vickers and e. E. Charlton Trujillo!"

At Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio: Bookseller Kim Brock (center) made it a mission to "take a selfie with anyone I saw with a bookish shirt."

Some bookstores celebrated outside or with online sales. For example, MahoganyBooks, Washington, D.C., offered a 10% discount on all online purchases on Saturday, "something we've never done before." And Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pa., offered $5 coupons for every $50 in purchases in store and online.

On Saturday, at Riffraff, Providence, R.I., the courtyard was open and the store provided café/bar service all day. Among the deals: everyone who bought $50 worth of books got a free mug, and all online orders of more than $50 on Saturday and Sunday came with a free tote bag and free shipping. Perhaps best of all: co-owner Tom Roberge was "making $8 negronis--his favorite drink."

At Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Fla. offered free shipping yesterday, to give readers "a second chance to support your favorite store." Founder and CEO Andy Hunter wrote to customers in part, "Local bookstores provide us so much enlightenment, community, and joy. We understand now more than ever that the small choices we make, what we buy and from whom, shape the world we live in. Let's make sure the future is filled with bookstores." offered a free audiobook to anyone who spent $15 or more in a partner bookstore between April 24 and 26, a deal that many bookstores featured. As of late Sunday afternoon, had received requests for a free audiobook from more than 3,600 IBD customers who had spent "more than $175,000 combined on print books and other merchandise at their local bookstore," the company said.

At Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., which celebrated its 30th anniversary on IBD.

Some bookstores took different approaches to celebrating IBD. At East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, Calif., the focus on IBD was, as owner Brad Johnson explained last week, "what we think distinguishes us as 'independent,' our booksellers. All day on April 24th, they will get a commission bonus on any purchase from their respective in-store Staff Recommendation displays or Bookseller Choice online catalogs. (Should you buy from mine, the bonus will go toward our first post-vaccine staff meal we're eagerly planning.)"

Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., celebrated in part by highlighting "fantastic books written by booksellers." They included Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson, owner of Nowhere Bookshop, San Antonio, Tex.; The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, owner of Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.; All Adults Here by Emma Straub, co-owner of Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and How to Resist Amazon and Why by Danny Caine, owner of the Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan.

In honor of IBD and with the help of its member publishers and magazines, the Community of Literary Magazines & Presses (CLMP) compiled a list of 140 indie bookstores in the U.S. and Canada that "do an especially good job carrying and supporting the work of independent literary publishers." As CLMP noted, "On #IndieBookstoreDay, CLMP members will be sharing our new roundup and giving a #BookstoreShoutOut to their favorites!"

A Presidential Visit
A big highlight for six bookstores were the virtual conversations they had with former President Obama, recorded in advance and released on Friday. As he posted on Twitter: "I love wandering into independent bookstores and discovering new voices and new authors. So on Independent Bookstore Day, I wanted to talk with some of the folks who help support authors and nourish our communities."

The author of one of last year's bestselling books, A Promised Land, Obama talked with Noëlle Santos of the Lit.Bar, Bronx, N.Y. (which celebrated its second birthday on IBD), Richard Howorth of Square Books, Oxford, Miss., Brad Graham of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., James Fugate and Tom Hamilton of Eso Won Books, Los Angeles, Calif., Karen Hayes of Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., and Hilary Gustafson of Literati, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Ranging from four to 12 minutes, the conversations touched on the president's support of independent bookstores over the years, the art and craft of writing, the joys and importance of reading and more. (We've listened to them all, and recommend them all!)

Kamala Harris talks with Gibson's Bookstore owner Michael Herrmann

A Vice Presidential Visit
On Friday, the eve of Independent Bookstore Day, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., while in the Granite State to promote the administration's infrastructure plan. Harris browsed the store, spent some time talking with staff and bought copies of Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia and The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook. Gibson's made sure to have several copies of her book The Truths We Hold: An American Journey at the cash registers. It was the Vice President's second visit to Gibson's: she was also there in February 2019.

GLOW: Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura: Wild Life: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Living Wonders by Cara Giaimo, Joshua Foer, and Atlas Obscura

#IndependentBookstoreDay on Social Media

Social media was buzzing Saturday with #IndependentBookstoreDay love, as indies reflected on the day with gratitude and perspective, given all the challenges this past year has delivered. Here's a sampling:

Inkwood Books, Haddonfield, N.J.: "Wow! We are overwhelmed by the love and support you all showed us today. Not only was it the busiest Indie Bookstore Day we've ever had, it was our busiest day ever!! You waited in lines all day so we could maintain our capacity limits, wore your masks properly without question, and gave us the gift of your support during the toughest of times for small business."

Foggy Pine Books, Boone, N.C.: "While we were disappointed that our sidewalk sale got rained out, we had a wonderful day thanks to you--our amazing customers. By the end of the day today, our sales were SIX TIMES what they were last year for IBD."

Kismet Books, Verona, Wis.: "What an amazing first #IndieBookstoreDay for Kismet Books! Thanks so much to everyone who popped by!"

At Greedy Reads in Baltimore

Greedy Reads, Baltimore, Md.: "THANK YOU! What an amazing Independent Bookstore Day. We saw lots of old friends we've been missing, and new friends we can't wait to see again.... You're all the best community a bookstore could have!"

Eleanor's Bookshop, Tulsa, Okla.: "What a wonderful day. Many thanks to all of those local and independent business who helped make today super special. Shop independent, y'all. And happy reading."

One More Page Books & More, Arlington, Va.: "Even though Independent Bookstore Day is different this year, one thing is the same--how much happiness we get from seeing some of our favorite people!" 

Two Birds Books, Santa Cruz, Calif.: "Thanks to our wonderful customers for making our first #indiebookstoreday such a memorable one! From the customer who called Independent Bookstore Day her 'Super Bowl' to the customer who brought us a pie (!!), you really made today feel like a celebration."

At Uncle Bobbie's in Philadelphia

Uncle Bobbie's Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, Pa.: "COMMUNITY. The vibes were all positive today for Indie Bookstore Day. Thank you to everyone that came out. We appreciate all of you."

The Novel Neighbor, St. Louis, Mo.: "#indiebookstoreday was a huge success! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for shopping local and making today so special! Our staff had a blast recommending our favorite books and being out in the world with you all. What a joy!"

Downtown Books, Manteo, N.C.: "It really was... with much gratitude thank you to everyone who came out to help us celebrate #indiebookstoreday... wow... did we FEEL THE LOVE... namaste y'all."

Octavia Books, New Orleans, La.: "Thank you to the hundreds of book lovers who helped us celebrate #IndieBookstoreDay and especially those who completed the quest to visit all five New Orleans stores on the local map."

At Blue Willow Books in Houston

The Bookshop, East Nashville, Tenn.: "That's a wrap on our fifth #indiebookstoreday! Feeling the love, y'all--so very much."

Fabled Bookshop & Café, Waco, Tex.: "Friends--y'all showed UP! Thank you for making our first official Indie Bookstore Day so incredible. Here's to many, many more." 

Francie & Finch Bookshop, Lincoln, Neb.: "We had so much fun today!!!!! Thank you everyone for coming out and supporting indie bookstores today.... You really do meet the coolest people in bookstores."

Tombolo Books, Saint Petersburg, Fla.: "We did it. What an Indie Bookstore Day. Y'all kept us busy, inspired, and smiling."

The Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, Vt.: "What a day! Thanks everyone--a few hundred dollars raised for the food shelf and so much local love. Our hearts are full & we are so thankful for every one of you."

Monkey and Dog Books, Fort Worth, Tex.: "Wow. We are truly overwhelmed by all of the love and support you showed us today! We hope you enjoyed visiting the shop today as much as we loved seeing all of you."

FoxTale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, Ga.: "Y'all. It was amazing to see your (masked) faces today! and catching up with so many of you and meeting new booklovers. YOU are the reason I love this community and Shoppe so much. I've missed you and I'm so grateful for each of you!"

The Little Bookshop, Midlothian, Va.: "Tired feet are up, wine is poured, and gratitude is flowing for our AMAZING customers who came out and supported us this #indiebookstoreday!! We saw so many familiar faces and made so many new bookish friends...thank you, thank you from the bottom of our bookish hearts for your love and support."

Bookends & Beginnings, Evanston, Ill.: "Thank you everyone for your support this #indiebookstoreday! We saw record breaking sales since our reopening last summer. We feel so loved!"

At Main Street Books, Davidson, N.C.

Bookish, Fort Smith, Ark.: "Barrie and I loved seeing so many friends today (and meeting new ones too!) But wow are we wiped out!"

Let's Play Books, Emmaus, Pa.: "What an incredible day! It would be easier to list the number of people we didn't see than people we did. Our hearts are full (but our feet are tired).... Today felt like a family reunion and we couldn't be happier."

Bookery Manchester, Manchester, N.H.: "Post #IndependentBookstoreDay crash. Thank you so much to everyone who came to visit and to everyone who supported from afar! We're lucky to have all of you."

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day: 'Nothing Short of Magical'

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day made an impressive comeback this weekend, thanks to bookshop enthusiasm nationwide and an impressive organizational boost from the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association, which took control this year of an event that had been held under the auspices of the Retail Council of Canada since 2018. 

"It's finally here: Canadian #IndieBookstoreDay!" CIBA posted: We're so excited to join readers, writers, and publishers in celebration of beloved local bookstores across the country. We'll be here all day offering live coverage of festivities.... Thank you for joining us. Let the fun begin!"

In addition to the festivities, CIBD also marked the challenges booksellers face, and not just from the pandemic. Vancouver's Black Bond Books in Surrey used CIBA to celebrate independence as well as highlight the dangers of corporate monopolies like Amazon by participating in the ABA's #BOXEDOUT campaign. "If you want us to be here tomorrow, you have to support us today," said Book Warehouse/Black Bond Books co-owner Cathy Jesson. 

Many Canadian indie booksellers shared their CIBD excitement on social media. Among the highlights: 

Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge, Ont.: "While we can't celebrate in person we have so many exciting promotions ready for you today!... Thank you for celebrating Canadian Independent Bookstore Day with us!"

Librairie Saga, Montreal, Que.: "Joyeuse Canadian Independent Bookstore Day (Journée des librairies indépendantes canadiennes)!"

HarperCollins Canada created these cool #CIBD masks for booksellers

Ben McNally Books, Toronto, Ont.: "Today is #IndieBookstoreDay!! We would be nowhere without the support of our friends in the reading community. Love & solidarity to all indies all over the world! And thanks to those who shop with us & choose human connection over algorithm Yellow heart."

Glass Bookshop, Edmonton, Alb.: "The day's finally here! It's Canadian Independent Bookstore Day!... We don't take your trust for granted and want to thank you for believing in us and all the ways you support us."

Moonbeam Books, Toronto, Ont.: "Happy Canadian Independent Bookstore Day from the Moonbeam fam! Thanks so much for all your continued support!... One team. One dream. Moonbeam."

McNally Robinson Booksellers, Saskatoon, Sask.: "THANK YOU! Today is Canadian Independent Bookstore Day! We want to thank everyone for the love and support you have given us for the past 23 years and the years to come."

Ella Minnow Children's Bookstore, Toronto: "We're proud to be part of an amazing network of #indiebookstores across the country who are working tirelessly to maintain bookselling as an integral part of our local communities. Your support is invaluable--thanks for your support today and every day!"

Mosaic Books, Kelowna, B.C.: "Happy Indie Bookstore Day from our misfit band of cheeky booksellers!!!... This Indie Bookstore Day, take a moment to reflect on the unique and irreplaceable contribution that indies (like US!) make to their local communities." 

Type Books, Toronto: "Today we're joining independent bookstores and booksellers across North America to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day and commemorate the everlasting spirit of stores like ours everywhere...."

Meghan Redmile, one of the authors who appeared in the window at Brome Lake Books on CIBD.

Brome Lake Books, Knowlton, Que.: "Author and vintage enthusiast Meghan Redmile writing her fourth novel in our window right now!"

The Bookshelf, Guelph, Ont.: "Drum roll please! We would like to thank everyone who submitted photos of their favorite place to read!"

The Book Keeper, Sarnia, Ont.: "Canadian Independent Bookstore Day was such a huge success!... We are so humbled by the response and love from our community. Please continue to visit and shop with the other fantastic locally owned business in the area!" 

Galiano Island Books, Galiano Island, B.C.: "It was so lovely to see all of you who came to the bookstore today and purchased books! This is the one reason that we are still here after over a year of this pandemic, and all of the other years too! Thank you!"

Analog Books Inc., Lethbridge, Alb.: "Yesterday was Canadian #IndieBookstoreDay and it was an overwhelming success. There are so many benefits when you #ShopLocal and #ReadTheWorld. Thank you for supporting indies--especially this year."

Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C.: "Whatever shape your love for us took yesterday, we felt it. Thank you for making #IndieBookstoreDay a resounding success.... Sending all the love to our community of book lovers here in Victoria and beyond!"

Saturday evening, CIBA posted: "Today has been nothing short of magical. We're grateful to all the readers, writers, illustrators, and publishers who helped us celebrate Canadian #IndieBookstoreDay. And above all, we're thankful to indie booksellers for their dedication and contributions to Canadian culture."

Sherman's Maine Coast Book Shop to Open Three New Locations

Sherman's in Damariscotta, Maine

Sherman's Maine Coast Book Shops will open new locations in the state this summer, in Topsham, Windham and Rockland. Like the other Sherman's stores, the new locations will be general-interest bookstores for all ages with selections of stationery, cards, puzzles and other gifts. The Topsham and Windham stores will be located in malls, while the Rockland store will be in a freestanding building. 

Early on in the pandemic Sherman's permanently closed its store in Camden, Maine, and after receiving incredible customer support throughout 2020, Sherman's went on the hunt to find a new location that would replace the Camden store.

"We went looking for an opportunity to open a new store and found three opportunities instead," said Jeff Curtis, co-owner and CEO of Sherman's. "We couldn't decide between them, so we decided to open all three!"

The bookstore is looking to hire booksellers to work at not only the new locations but also the five existing locations, in Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, Damariscotta, Freeport and Portland. Sherman's was founded in Bar Harbor in 1886.


Elizabeth McCracken on Indie Bookstores: 'Love Letters to Some of My Favorites'


"On this Independent Bookstore Day, love letters to some of my favorites," author Elizabeth McCracken tweeted Saturday. Her thread concluded with "@Prairie_Lights, which has had a profounder effect on my writing than any other bookstore. Among other things, it's the first place I was hand-sold a book (by @paulingram26, of course). How canny a bookseller is @paulingram26? One of the books he handsold me was Observatory Mansions, by Edward Carey, a year before I ever met the fellow." Carey and McCracken are married.

Hanif Abdurraqib's IBD Spirit of Generosity

On Saturday, author Hanif Abdurraqib celebrated Independent Bookstore Day with book-fueled generosity. His Twitter thread: "Happy Indie Bookstore Day. Columbus folks: I purchased & signed the stock of all my books at @TheBookLoftGV, @TwoDollarHQ, & @PrologueBkshop. 120 copies of ALDIA, 60 of They Can't Kill Us, & around 25 each of Fortune & GAITR. They are free for everyone to grab. Spread the word.

"I have a lot of love and appreciation for indie booksellers and book workers around the country, who have been kind to me as a person, well beyond my work. But I'm not sure any author has been shown love in their hometown like I've been shown love in Columbus. It means a lot.

"Additionally, I'm linking with Two Dollar Radio to get some Toni Morrison books sent to graduating seniors at Beechcroft High School--but if any other Columbus City Schools teachers have seniors who would be down to get some Morrison, you know how to get a hold of me.

"Pull up on these shops and grab these books and if you were gonna spend money on my books, maybe grab a book that isn't mine instead."

Personnel Changes at Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull

Sarah Jean Grimm and Lena Moses-Schmitt have both been promoted to assistant director of publicity at Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull. Previously both were senior publicity managers.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Moss on Fresh Air

CBS This Morning: Tarana Burke and Brené Brown, editors of You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience (Random House, $27, 9780593243626).

Also on CBS This Morning: Laurie Woolever, co-author of World Travel: An Irreverent Guide (Ecco, $35, 9780062802798).

Fresh Air: Michael Moss, author of Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions (Random House, $28, 9780812997293).

Wendy Williams: Bevy Smith, author of Bevelations: Lessons from a Mutha, Auntie, Bestie (Andy Cohen Books, $24.99, 9781250311788).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, authors of What Makes a Marriage Last: 40 Celebrated Couples Share with Us the Secrets to a Happy Life (HarperOne, $19.99, 9780062982605).

Good Morning America: Cindy McCain, author of Stronger: Courage, Hope, and Humor in My Life with John McCain (Crown Forum, $28, 9780593236888).

The Real: Don Lemon, author of This Is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316257572).

The View: Sharon Stone, author of The Beauty of Living Twice (Knopf, $27.95, 9780525656760).

A Little Late with Lilly Singh: Justin Baldoni, author of Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity (HarperOne, $28.99, 9780063055599).

Bookish Oscar Winners: Nomadland, The Father

At last night's Academy Awards ceremony, three book-related films took home gold, including multiple major category wins for Nomadland. This year's bookish Oscar winners:

Nomadland, based on Jessica Bruder's Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century: best picture; director (Chloé Zhao); actress (Frances McDormand)

The Father, based on the play Le Père/The Father: A Tragic Farce by Florian Zeller, translated into English by Christopher Hampton: actor (Anthony Hopkins); adapted screenplay (Hampton & Zeller)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, based on the play by August Wilson: costume design; makeup & hairstyling

A number of book-related movies earned Oscar nominations, but didn't win. These included Hillbilly Elegy, based on J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis; News of the World, adapted from the novel by Paulette Jiles; The White Tiger, based on the novel by Aravind Adiga; The United States vs. Billie Holiday, based on Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari; One Night in Miami, based on the play by Kemp Powers; Midnight Sky, adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton's Good Morning, Midnight; Emma, based on Jane Austen's novel; The One and Only Ivan, based on the book by Katherine Applegate; and Mulan, suggested by the narrative poem "The Ballad of Mulan." 

Books & Authors

Awards: Sheikh Zayed Winners; Tony Ryan Finalists

Winners of the 2021 Sheikh Zayed Book Awards have been announced and can be seen here. Each winner receives $204,181, and the awards will be presented in a ceremony streamed live during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which takes place May 23-29.


Finalists have been named for the $10,000 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, recognizing the best long-form writing in the world of thoroughbred racing:

Diane Crump, A Horse-Racing Pioneer's Life in the Saddle by Mark Shrager
Good Things Come by Linda Shantz
Sylvia Rideoutt Bishop Had a Way with Horses by Vicky Moon

Book Review

Review: While Justice Sleeps

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams (Doubleday, $28 hardcover, 384p., 9780385546577, May 11, 2021)

With While Justice Sleeps, Stacey Abrams (Lead from the Outside) marks her first foray into the political thriller genre--bringing her experience with courts, politics and the justice system to a world of imagined suspense and intrigue with great success.

Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn has few family ties to speak of, just an estranged son and a soon-to-be-divorced second wife. He has dedicated his life, instead, to his role on the Supreme Court, and to his definition of justice. "He felt equally dismissive of willful ignorance--his description of the modern press--and smug stupidity, his bon mot for politicians." Avery Keene serves as Justice Wynn's law clerk, overworked and underpaid while juggling care for her mother, who suffers from drug addiction and pops in and out of Avery's life.

When Justice Wynn slips into an inexplicable coma, it comes as a great surprise to everyone--Avery included--when Wynn's papers name Avery his legal guardian. And as people around Justice Wynn start to disappear or turn up dead, Avery quickly realizes she's in deeper than she thought possible. She is drawn into an international plot surrounding the possible merger of an American tech company and Indian genetics research lab in a Supreme Court case, for which Justice Wynn was set to be the swing vote--prior to his coma.

There are a lot of layers to the central mystery of While Justice Sleeps, which can feel labyrinthine at times--both to readers following Avery's pursuits, and to Avery tracing a scavenger hunt-like trail of Justice Wynn's clues about the case at hand. But a bit of patience is more than worth it, as Abrams weaves a suspenseful tale of politics and power that feels grounded in the realities of American politics--even while the case and story surrounding it are purely fiction. "America is a contradictory and precocious country, sir," Avery recalls telling Justice Wynn prior to his coma. "We have, in a very short period of time, managed to commit venal sins against our own people and offer the world repeat examples of exceptionalism. Americans are greedy, brilliant, ambitious, and compassionate."

This kind of reflection on the very real state of American politics serves to set While Justice Sleeps apart in a crowded genre. Abrams deftly combines a clever, follow-the-clues story with an urge to consider questions of governance, power and the human cost of policy decisions that seem far-fetched, but can carry grave consequences for everyday people around the world. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Shelf Talker: Stacey Abrams's first political thriller combines a scavenger hunt for clues with reflections on the state of American politics in a clever, suspenseful novel.

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