Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 17, 2021

S&S / Marysue Rucci Books: The Night We Lost Him by Laura Dave

Wednesday Books: When Haru Was Here by Dustin Thao

Tommy Nelson: Up Toward the Light by Granger Smith, Illustrated by Laura Watkins

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton

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

Quotation of the Day

'20,000 Orders in Four Days... All Hands on Deck'

Leonard Egerton and Clarrissa Cropper

"We received, I think, 20,000 orders in four days. And we couldn't handle it. [It was] all hands on deck--our family, our children, our friends, nieces, nephews came to help us, and we had to actually hire a fulfillment company here in Massachusetts."

--Leonard Egerton, owner, with Clarrissa Cropper, of Frugal Bookstore, Roxbury, Mass., speaking with Boston Public Radio about the surge of demand last year following the store's GoFundMe campaign and the efforts to support Black-owned businesses in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!


Bookstore Sales Up 34.7% in March

In March, for the first time in a year, bookstore sales rose compared to the same period the year earlier: in March 2021, bookstore sales climbed 34.7%, to $547 million, compared to March 2020, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. March 2020, of course, when bookstore sales fell 33.4%, was the first month that reflected severe measures taken in the U.S. to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which included widespread lockdowns.

For the first three months of the year, bookstore sales are down 8.2%, at $1.826 billion.

Total retail sales in March rose 31.7%, to $629.9 billion. So far this year, total retail sales have risen 14%, to $1.6 trillion.

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 continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."

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

Family Books in Los Angeles, Calif., Closes

Family Books in Los Angeles, Calif., will close its bricks-and-mortar store, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Owner David Jacob Kramer, who opened the store in 2007 with Sammy and Tahli Harkham, made the announcement to customers last Wednesday. He explained that even before the pandemic, the store had already been "operating by the skin of its teeth," but the pandemic shutdowns proved to be too much.

"We didn't have the kind of business that could function for curbside pickup; that's not what we're about," Kramer told the paper. "We're a place to hang out. It was antithetical to our M.O."

The store was known for its eclectic mix of inventory, which included everything from books, zines, vinyl records and cassette tapes to clothing and movies. There was an art gallery and performance space as well, and the bookstore even published some out-of-print books.

"We always wanted it to be kind of a living space, a place for people to get together and share ideas and share the work they made in a way that was accessible to everyone," Kramer said. "Young people can make things and sell their things there."

Kramer noted that he'll keep the store's doors open long enough to sell down the existing inventory, which will be 30% off. And while the physical store will close, Family Books will continue as a publishing imprint and will continue to host pop-up events.

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich

Midtown Scholar, Harrisburg, Pa., Reopening to the Public

Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, Pa., will reopen to the public on May 28 after being closed to browsing for 419 days. 

Initially the bookstore will only be open for browsing on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but manager Alex Brubaker plans to expand both days and hours of operation throughout the summer as more Pennsylvanians get vaccinated. Masks will be required, restrooms will be closed to the public and all indoor seating and tables will be removed from the bookstore and cafe areas. The cafe, meanwhile, will have a full menu of espresso beverages, coffee, tea and baked goods.

To celebrate the reopening, Midtown Scholar will offer a gift card special on May 28 and 29. For every $50 a customer spends, they'll receive a $5 gift card that can be used toward feature transactions.

Since March 2020, Brubaker and his team have hosted more than 140 virtual events and more than 100 outdoor sidewalk sales. Midtown Scholar will continue to host virtual events going forward.

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

Indies on CDC Mask Guidelines: 'We Don't Want to Fight. We Want to Share Our Love of Books'

At the Book Cellar in Chicago

Indie booksellers nationwide are scrambling to deal with Thursday's surprise CDC guidelines update that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

Booksellers, like other retailers, had to respond immediately so their customers would know what the new guidelines meant in terms of their in-store experience going into the weekend. On social media, indies found a variety of ways to convey the message: 

Reads & Company, Phoenixville, Pa.: "Fair to say, the CDC caught businesses off guard. We didn't sign up to be bouncers and interrogators of the vaxxed and unvaxxed. We just want to run the best little community bookshop in the world. Thank you for your patience and support as we continue to navigate our way through this, together."

The Book Cellar, Chicago, Ill.: "In any retail scenario, there are always going to be people we interact with who do not operate in good faith. And it is, quite frankly, anxiety-inducing. We don't want to fight. We want to share our love of books."

Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash.: "There's light at the end of the tunnel, but for now we are continuing to require that face masks be worn in our store for the safety of our customers and staff."

Blue Cypress Books , New Orleans, La.: "Hey ya’ll--for now, Blue Cypress Books will still be requiring masks.... As more of the city becomes vaccinated, we'll continuously reevaluate our policy and let you know when we're ready to stop requiring masks. We hope to see your smiling (under-your-mask) faces soon!"

At Napa Bookmine

Greedy Reads, Baltimore, Md.: "We're getting there; please be patient and kind while we negotiate these next few steps. In short, masks still required."

Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, Columbus, Ohio: "Safety is our top priority. All of our booksellers are fully vaccinated, but we're still going to be masking up here at the store to protect the little ones."

Napa Bookmine, Napa, Calif.: "Hi Bookminers! We saw the CDC's update re: masks and just wanted to let you know that we'll be erring on the side of caution for the time being."

Savoy Bookshop and Café, Westerly, R.I.: "We can't wait to see all of your smiling faces (fully!) again soon. However, for the time being, we ask that you still mask up when you come into our bookstores.... Thank you to everyone who has supported us in so many ways during this unprecedented time."

Roundabout Books, Bend, Ore.: "For the safety and comfort of everyone in the bookshop, we ask our customers to continue wearing masks in the store during May. We believe the next few weeks will be a transitional period and want to be mindful of safety, especially for our youngest customers, while giving everyone the time and space needed to adjust and finish the vaccination process."

Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich.: "Things sure can change quickly! While the Health Department has stated that Michiganders who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask, for the safety and comfort of our customers and staff, masks will continue to be required at Nicola's Books for the time being."

The Book Jewel, Los Angeles, Calif.: "Hi friends, we are aware of the new CDC guidelines. However, since we have no way of verifying who has been vaccinated, we ask for patience and understanding from our guests. Thank you in advance! We're in this together!"

Blue Willow Books, Houston, Tex.: "Hi, friends! We are still requiring a mask for browsing. This is what we feel safe and comfortable with, and we appreciate your understanding."

At Second Flight Books

Second Flight Books, Lafayette, Ind.: "We heard what the CDC said, but our staff will continue to wear masks for the time being, and we ask that you do, too.... We trust that you're all adults and can handle the slight inconvenience of wearing a mask for the time being."

BookBar, Denver, Colo.: "Please be patient as we work on updating our mask policy in accordance with CDC, state, and city guidelines.... We're as eager as everyone to get back to normal but safety and science are our first priorities. No exceptions. Not a one."

Some booksellers were taking steps toward mask-free retail, including:

Prairie Fox Books, Ottawa, Ill.: "We would absolutely LOVE to see smiles again, and we will welcome you in per guidelines. Our vaccinated staff may be maskless, but if this makes you uncomfortable, please ask and we will mask up immediately."

Next Chapter Bookstore, Barre, Vt.: "Who watched Governor Scott's Press conference this morning? We are excited to welcome fully vaccinated shoppers and their smiles without masks!"

On the lighter side, many indies shared writer Molly Templeton's alternative guideline: "The CDC says fully vaccinated people can keep buying new books even if they already have more unread books than any person could possibly read in one lifetime."

S&S Fall Preview Tomorrow and Wednesday


Tomorrow and Wednesday, May 18 and 19, Simon & Schuster is hosting its Fall Preview, an hour each day, highlighting authors and illustrators and their upcoming books.

Tuesday from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern, the focus is on five adult books--four novels and a memoir--with their authors and editors revealing the stories behind these major titles.

Wednesday, 2-3 p.m. Eastern, the focus is on a range of children's and YA titles; the discussion featuring authors and illustrators will be moderated by Brein Lopez of Children's Book World, Los Angeles, Calif.

To register, click here. For full details, see S&S's dedicated issue here.


'Yes, Booksellers Doing Math'

Posted on Facebook yesterday by Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Fla.: "Monday, May 17 is inventory day at Tombolo Books. That means our sales floor will be closed Monday while we do some serious book counting. Yes, booksellers doing math. Our online shop and curbside pickup will still be available on Monday and the sales floor will be back open Tuesday, May 18."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Carol Leonnig on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Stacey Abrams, author of While Justice Sleeps: A Novel (Doubleday, $28, 9780385546577).

NPR's Here & Now: Sebastian Junger, author of Freedom (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781982153410).

Fresh Air: Carol Leonnig, author of Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service (Random House, $30, 9780399589010).

The Real: Tamika D. Mallory, author of State of Emergency: How We Win in the Country We Built (Atria/Black Privilege, $26, 9781982173463). She will also appear tomorrow on Good Morning America.

Ellen: Brené Brown, co-editor of You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience (Random House, $27, 9780593243626).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Cindy McCain, author of Stronger: Courage, Hope, and Humor in My Life with John McCain (Crown Forum, $28, 9780593236888).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Julianna Margulies, author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life (Ballantine, $28, 9780525480259).

TV: Shining Girls

Jamie Bell (Without Remorse) will star alongside Emmy Award-winner Elisabeth Moss and Wagner Moura in the Apple TV+ series Shining Girls, based on the 2013 novel by Lauren Beukes, Deadline reported. The project will be adapted for TV and executive produced by Silka Luisa, who also serves as showrunner.

Moss is also executive producing through Love & Squalor Pictures, alongside Lindsey McManus. Leonardo DiCaprio serves as executive producer through Appian Way alongside Jennifer Davisson. Beukes and Alan Page Arriaga will also serve as executive producers. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Ockham NZ Book Winners

Winners of the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards were recently announced. Airini Beautrais took the A$57,000 (about US$44,155) Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction for Bug Week & Other Stories. Guest international co-judge Tommy Orange commented: "I was consistently surprised by sentences, the beauty and singular language. If the book were a bug, it would be a big one, with teeth and venom, with wings and a surprising heart, possibly several, beating on every page with life." Check out the complete list of NZ Book Awards winner here.

Book Review

Review: Cack-Handed: A Memoir

Cack-Handed: A Memoir by Gina Yashere (Amistad, $26.99 hardcover, 320p., 9780062961716, June 8, 2021)

Cack-Handed is comedian Gina Yashere's entertaining memoir celebrating the adventures and improbable life journey that led to her successful international stand-up comedy and TV career. Yashere--British correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and co-creator of Bob Abishola--catapulted into the American comedy scene in 2008, with a vibrant onstage presence and irreverent style showcasing hilarious anecdotes from her Nigerian immigrant upbringing in London's East End.

Cack-Handed opens with an introduction to the author's African ancestors from the Kingdom of Benin, an extremely advanced, prosperous community in what is now Southern Nigeria. Yashere, who now lives in Los Angeles, refers to her ancestral homeland as "the real Wakanda" and explains how colonization destroyed many of the region's prosperous societies. This fascinating abbreviated history of Nigeria helps contextualize for readers many of the post-independence challenges the country faces to this day.

Yashere's formative years were defined by her Nigerian mother's fiercely protective parenting and interpretation of everything fun as a threat to her five children's career prospects. Many years on, Yashere deploys memories of her mother's extreme strictness in her stand-up routines to brilliant comic effect, peeling away any resentment she felt as a child to reveal the love behind such a demanding maternal presence.

She suffered as a teenager at the hands of an abominably behaved stepfather and rebelled against her mother's rigid rules, culminating in a suicide attempt. After a strong academic performance in school, Yashere became the first female engineer at the elevator company Otis. She explored her sexuality and let off steam in London's thriving nightclub scene. Drawn to acting, Yashere took a detour from engineering to pursue her dream of performing comedy on stage in England, the U.S. and beyond. The term "cack-handed," meaning awkward and clumsy, also represents the author's embrace of an unconventional career and free-spirited lifestyle that her ancestors would have appreciated.

British racism, more genteel than the American kind, featured prominently in Yashere's early comedy career. She deploys her homegrown humor to expose the blatant absurdity of all forms of discrimination--a victim she is not. Enhanced by Yashere's splendid storytelling and generous wit, Cack-Handed honors the emotionally resilient, cosmopolitan, proud Black lesbian identity Yashere confidently claims as her own. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Shelf Talker: A Nigerian-British comedian with a commanding American presence generously shares her path to stand-up comedy and television fame.

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