Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

Quotation of the Day

'Bookstores Traditionally an Anchor for Neighborhoods'

"There couldn't be any more difficult time to open up any kind of retail shop, much less a bookstore, but it's one of the things that's really encouraging, especially the number of stores that are opening up around the nation in communities that really haven't seen bookstores before....

"Bookstores have traditionally provided an anchor for neighborhoods, to gather and to share what's in common, and actually in many cases to celebrate what's different. That's even more important now as demographics in cities change, to see more and more booksellers of color showing up from many different generations. It's a phenomena and a growing one."

--Paul Yamazaki, lead buyer at City Lights bookstore, San Francisco, Calif., interviewed by Rachel A.G. Gilman for No Contact magazine's "Shelf Life" column

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


Village Books Coming to The Woodlands, Tex.

Village Books will open at 9955 Woodlands Parkway in The Woodlands, Tex., a planned community near Houston. A grand opening celebration is expected in mid-August. The Houston Chronicle reported that owner and founder Teresa Kenney hopes the space becomes "a magical den of books, arts and crafts, learning and community spirit."

"We had our eye on another space and that did not work out," she said. "This space became available and we are so excited about it. It is in my own neighborhood, which means I can walk to work. I am over the moon. It has been two years since I started thinking about this and working toward it, and the pandemic put a huge delay in it. I am so ready."

Village Books coming soon.

The 1,500-square-foot space is located in a mini-shopping center. Plans call for "re-designing the interior of the storefront with expansive permanent bookshelves along the side walls, while utilizing movable bookcases in the middle of the store in order to create a fluid gathering area for book clubs, author talks and children's activities," the Chronicle wrote.

Kenney's goal is to make a bookstore that fits her background as a writer and editor and is open to attract other creative minds in the community: "I wanted a new challenge (in life), but I wanted also something I could do that would be really part of the community as well as to help the community."

In February 2020, Kenney announced plans to open Village Books, but that attempt was soon derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which altered both her timeline for opening as well the new bookstore's location. She kept the momentum going with a youth writing contest last summer and by maintaining an online presence. Now she is ready to launch a bricks-and-mortar bookshop. 

"I think a lot of people are ready for it," Kenney said. "There are a lot of people who think (the bookstore) is their own. People are sending me ideas and they are really approaching this as a community space, a community place to gather, which I love. I want people to be involved....

"We have been getting a huge uptick in people contacting us, asking when we are going to open. I think people are ready to get out and connect, and that is the purpose of the bookstore. I think this is the perfect time to open. We have some buildout we need to do first, but I'm so excited."

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

Des Pair Books Opens in Los Angeles

Des Pair Books has opened in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., featuring new fiction, classics, art and cinema titles and "an excellent selection of cookbooks," Vanity Fair reported. The owner is Addison Richley, who worked at Gagosian, in its Beverly Hills and one of its New York City galleries, before joining the Karma gallery in the East Village, where she was the archivist.

Richley had "dreamed of a bookstore" and thought seriously about opening one when she was ill last year. "During my last summer in New York, I got sick and spent most of those months in bed, so I had a lot of time to think about my career," she said. "I just kept working at it, and things began to fall into place in a way that felt like the right transition."

Vanity Fair wrote that Des Pair Books "feels like an actual store with a point of view. Most days, you will find Richley behind the counter, her dog Maude lounging beside her, happy to recommend a title; Violette Leduc's La Bâtarde and Michel Houellebecq's Serotonin are her current favorites."

Richley is also busy working on a related project: Seasons of Des Pair, a quarterly zine that launches this summer. "The final product is a fun grouping of poems, short stories, and essays and will be designed by the creative studio Day Job," she said. The cover artwork is by a Los Angeles artist, AJ Kahn, who will have an exhibition in the store when the zine launches.

WORD Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., Launches Indie Bingo

WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., has spearheaded a shop local bingo challenge that began on Memorial Day and will run through Labor Day. 

Customers can pick up a bingo card at any of the 15 participating small businesses in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood. They can get their cards stamped or signed at the other participating businesses, and customers who return the cards to WORD with rows completed will earn prizes and be entered into a grand prize drawing. The grand prize will include plenty of gifts from the participating stores, as well as a three-month subscription to WORD's subscription service. Customers who fill every square on the bingo card, meanwhile, will have their names entered into the grand prize drawing five times.

Bookseller Mindy Chen reported that she came up with the idea during a brainstorming session on how the bookstore can get more involved in the neighborhood. Some of her colleagues had mentioned ideas such as bingo and a scavenger hunt, and she "combined those two ideas." The bingo cards list businesses to visit as well as "challenges" specific to the neighborhood or to bookselling.

Chen described the process of getting other local businesses on board as "trial and error." After coming up with an initial list of independent Greenpoint businesses, they had to scale down the final list by distance and type of business to make it manageable. After that, Chen e-mailed many of the businesses and visited some of the closer shops. She noted that the final list includes many different kinds of businesses, including boutiques, a movie theater and even an axe-throwing bar.

"The main goal is really to make the best of the summer after an extremely crazy and stressful year," Chen said. "We've seen so many of our local businesses shut down or go on hiatus during the pandemic, so we wanted to do something that would be fun and celebratory."

International Update: Marcus Rashford & Barack Obama Talk Books, Hong Kong Bookseller Considers the Future

British football star and reading advocate Marcus Rashford, who recently partnered with Macmillan Children's Books to launch a book club with schools in disadvantaged areas of the U.K., met with former President Barack Obama in a Zoom conversation organized by Penguin Books, the Bookseller reported. They discussed "the power young people have to make change, the positive impact reading can have and the importance of giving back to your community. They also talked about shared experiences like being raised by single mothers, the moment they discovered a love of reading, and their drive to give something back to the communities they were raised in."

Rashford, whose book You Are a Champion: Be the Best You Can Be (co-authored by Carl Anka) was released in the U.K. last week, observed: "Through books, you can grow yourself in whichever way you want.... Books allowed me to do it my own way.... I mean, it's quite surreal, isn't it? I'm sitting in my kitchen in Manchester, speaking to President Obama. But immediately he made me feel at ease. It wasn't long before I realized just how aligned our experiences as children were in shaping the men you see today--adversity, obstacles and all. I genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. When President Obama speaks, all you want to do is listen."

The Guardian noted that Rashford has also used his social media presence to compel the government "to reverse policy on free school meals for the country's most disadvantaged children. He applied himself to campaigning against food poverty with the same discipline he does to football." 

When asked if he regards himself as political, Rashford replied: "No, not at all. I'm just a young person who was in a difficult situation and managed to find a way out, and now I'm in a position where I can help others... where I'm actually coming from is the exact place I'm trying to help. Everything I've spoken about is factual--things I've been through or that other people are going through."

Forum Books, Corbridge, posted on Facebook: "We stand with Marcus.... Do you?!"


Bleak House Books

Hong Kong bookseller Albert Wan, co‑founder and proprietor of Bleak House Books, an English-language bookstore in San Po Kong, wrote what he briefly thought would be his last ''Coming Up for Air'' column for Ming Pao. He texted his editor and said he wanted to stop once his contract ended. By the following day, he had reconsidered and decided to continue. 

"But I find myself wondering why I even felt the need to broach the subject of ending this column," Wan noted, citing tired, scared and worried as three possible explanations.

"At the time when my wife and I decided to leave the United States for Hong Kong, we did so because we too had concerns about political dysfunction and violence," he observed. "These days I find myself conducting a balancing test of sorts: which kind of violence is of the less acceptable variety?.... 

"Perhaps in today's world the ideal home is one that is not free of either form of violence--since no such place like that exists anymore if it ever did--but one with mild versions of each. Which is another way of saying that one should not expect too much from the world and from humanity anymore. A sobering thought, yes, but maybe a liberating one as well."


"We have been amazed at how significant the return to books has been since the lockdown last year," New Zealand bookseller Jemma Morrison, manager of 77-year-old indie McLeods Booksellers in Rotorua, wrote in a column for Stuff NZ. "It's as though people, going at a slower and simpler pace of life, have had time to appreciate the value of books, as well as many hands-on activities. Since the lockdown, our sales have increased steadily and our Christmas last year was our best in recent years.

"As an independent bookshop, we can adapt our buying according to local demand. We now stock a range of quality jigsaw puzzles, fountain pens, interactive journals and books on crafts and practical activities which we noticed an upward trend in last year. This year we are investing in an exciting new website, consistently reminding people that they can shop online from their local bookshop instead of from overseas corporate giants....

"This engagement with the local community is priceless and a unique way that independent businesses can reach out and form an ongoing relationship with locals as well as raising a younger generation of readers." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Kevin Jackson

Kevin Jackson

British writer Kevin Jackson, who "was the author or editor of some 30 books which, in their bewildering variety of subjects and genres, mirrored their creator's capacious mind," died May 10, the Telegraph reported. He was 66. Jackson also collaborated in the production of TV documentaries, short films, comic books, surreal plays for radio and a rock opera.

A poet and reviewer, he was a founding member of the London Institute of 'Pataphysics, an organization "inspired by the French symbolist playwright Alfred Jarry's 'science of imaginary solutions,' a philosophy of the absurd which sets out to solve problems that nobody had thought could possibly exist," the Telegraph noted.

Jackson's books include Constellation of Genius, which was described by novelist Will Self as "that most counterintuitive of things, an insanely readable book about modernism"; The Language of Cinema; A Ruskin Alphabet; Invisible Forms; Humphrey Jennings; Moose; Bite: A Vampire Handbook; and Pavane for a Vampire Queen. In collaboration with illustrator Hunt Emerson, Jackson also produced comic books based on the writings of John Ruskin.

"Like one of his cultural heroes--the critic and lexicographer Samuel Johnson--he took some pride in his status as a man of letters free of institutional commitments," the Guardian wrote, "and thus free to pursue his inspirations where they took him. Although he published serious studies of his major passions--Humphrey Jennings, Ruskin and T.E. Lawrence, among others--he also produced a children's story in verse, Greta and the Labrador (2019), an English version of the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz's Crimean Sonnets (2015), and a gleefully irreverent cartoon strip for the Fortean Times on the lives of the great occultists."

In a tribute, the International Anthony Burgess Foundation wrote: "We will miss his enthusiasm and his company. Next year the Burgess Foundation is planning an event linked to Kevin's book Constellation of Genius, which documents artistic developments in the year 1922. It is sad to think that what would have been a celebration will now be a memorial. There is no doubt that the life of the writer we will go on remembering was always lived to the full."


'Hollywood Comes to RJ Julia!'

This past weekend, RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., was transformed into a movie set. "We're thrilled to have our store featured in the upcoming film adaptation of The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans," the bookstore noted in an notice to customers. The Netflix film stars Justin Hartley (This Is Us), Bonnie Bedelia and Treat Williams, with Hartley portraying "a bestselling author who returns home at Christmas to settle the estate of his estranged mother."

On Friday, the bookstore shared photos on Facebook, noting: "Netflix has Christmas-fied RJ Julia! Here's a sneak peek of the set decorations (with more to come). The only thing missing is the [snow]--and we hear that's on the way!"

The movie's assistant location manager told the Middletown Press how RJ Julia was chosen: "We have a team of folks that are part of my department to get a look into the location scouts and we task them and say, 'We need to find the most charming book store that's straight out of a postcard,' and that happens to be in Madison."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Clint Smith on Fresh Air

Today Show: Sinéad O'Connor, author of Rememberings (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780358423881).

Good Morning America: E.L. James, author of Freed: Fifty Shades Freed as Told by Christian (Bloom Books, $18.99, 9781728251035).

Fresh Air: Clint Smith, author of How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America (Little, Brown, $29, 9780316492935).

The Talk: Renée Felice Smith, co-author of Hugo and the Impossible Thing (Flamingo Books, $17.99, 9780593204634).

The View: Dan Abrams, co-author of Kennedy's Avenger: Assassination, Conspiracy, and the Forgotten Trial of Jack Ruby (Hanover Square Press, $27.99, 9781335914033).

Good Morning America: Chris Bosh, author of Letters to a Young Athlete (Penguin Press, $26, 9781984881786).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Meaghan Murphy, author of Your Fully Charged Life: A Radically Simple Approach to Having Endless Energy and Filling Every Day with Yay (TarcherPerigee, $26, 9780593188576).

Tamron Hall: T.J. Newman, author of Falling: A Novel (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781982177881).

The View: Chris Matthews, author of This Country: My Life in Politics and History (Simon & Schuster, $28.99, 9781982134846).

TV: Bridgerton, Season 2

Rupert Evans (The Man in the High Castle, Charmed) has joined the cast of Bridgerton for season two of the hit Netflix series based on Julia Quinn's novels. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Evans will play Edmund Bridgerton, "a loving and devoted husband whose true love match with Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) gave them eight children. He's further described as an endlessly patient and kind father, who takes special pride in guiding his eldest son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) through life." 

Season two of the Shonda Rhimes drama will focus on Anthony, with production currently underway in London. Chris Van Dusen returns as showrunner for season two and is executive producing alongside Rhimes and Betsy Beers.

Evans "joins a bulked-up cast that includes franchise newcomers Simone Ashley (Sex Education), Charithra Chandran (Alex Rider), Shelley Conn (Liar), Calam Lynch (Benediction) and Rupert Young (Dear Evan Hansen)," the Hollywood Reporter noted. Phoebe Dynevor is back as Daphne Bridgerton "and remains a vital part of the story, as a devoted wife and sister, helping her brother Anthony navigate the upcoming social season and what it has to offer."

Books & Authors

Awards: Thurber Winner; Orwell Book Shortlists

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young (Ecco) has won the $5,000 2020 Thurber Prize for American Humor. The judges called the book "a tragicomic exploration of the angsts, anxieties, and absurdities of existing while black in America. Damon uses honest humor to chronicle his efforts to survive while battling and making sense of the various neuroses his country has given him. It's a condition that's sometimes stretched to absurd limits: creating the farce where, as a teen, he wished for a white person to call him a racial slur just so he could fight him and have a great story about it; provoking the angst that made him question if 'being straight' was something he could practice and get better at, like a crossover dribble; and generating the surreal experience of watching his Pittsburgh neighborhood gentrify from predominantly Black to 'Portlandia... but with Pierogies.' "

The two runners up for the Thurber Prize were Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog by Dave Barry (Simon & Schuster) and Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton (Grand Central).


The shortlists for the 2021 Orwell Prizes have been announced. These are the titles shortlisted for the two book prizes:

Political Writing Book Prize:
African Europeans: An Untold History by Olivette Otele
Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition and Compromise in Putin's Russia by Joshua Yaffe
Eat the Buddha: The Story of Modern Tibet through the People of One Town by Barbara Demick
English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks
Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care by Madeleine Bunting
Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women by Christina Lamb
The Interest: How the British Establishment Resisted the Abolition of Slavery by Michael Taylor

Political Fiction Book:
After Lives by Abdulrazak Gurnah
Apeirogon, A Novel by Colum McCann
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Summer by Ali Smith
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Book Review

Review: The Vixen

The Vixen by Francine Prose (Harper, $25.99 hardcover, 336p., 9780063012141, June 29, 2021)

For many followers of history, among the most grievous miscarriages of justice perpetrated by the U.S. government were the 1953 executions of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were convicted of espionage. Such grim subject matter would seem an inauspicious backdrop for a literary caper, yet Francine Prose nimbly employs the Rosenbergs' fate to launch The Vixen, an often funny escapade revolving around a fictional New York publishing house at Red Scare-mad midcentury.

A few months after the Rosenbergs are executed, Simon Putnam, a Jewish, Brooklyn-bred recent Harvard graduate whose impractically twee major was Folklore and Mythology, begins a job as a junior assistant editor at Landry, Landry and Bartlett, a publishing house whose literary bona fides mitigate its financial precariousness. Simon has been winnowing the publisher's slush pile for six months when he's finally given a real assignment: he must pretty up for publication a debut novel called The Vixen, the Patriot, and the Fanatic, a potboiler based on the Rosenberg case; it's intended to make enough money to get Landry, Landry and Bartlett out of hock.

Simon is aghast at the prospect of having a hand in the novel's publication, and not just because it's a piece of propaganda designed to convince readers of the Rosenbergs' guilt: if Simon's parents knew what he was working on, they would be devastated, particularly his mother, who grew up in the same Lower East Side tenement as Ethel Rosenberg. And yet Simon understands that challenging his boss would be career suicide: "I'd been admitted, on a trial basis, to a charmed circle of angels... and I feared being cast back into the outer darkness of Coney Island." Complicating matters is Anya Partridge, the book's author, a photo of whom has the effect on Simon that her novel's protagonist, Esther Rosenstein--"a sexpot Mata Hari," as he puts it--has on the men in her path.

Simon's fondness for folklore--he recalls folktales throughout the novel, which he narrates as an older man--plays as a wink at The Vixen's allegorical underpinnings: like a fable, the story is animated by the tug-of-war between principle and personal ambition. Prose (Blue Angel; My New American Life; Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932) has crafted an inspired work of fiction that, while staying within a realistic framework, does for an invented New York publishing house what Ira Levin did for a certain Manhattan apartment building in Rosemary's Baby. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Humor and dodgy behavior drive this crafty historical novel about a New York publishing house's effort to capitalize on the 1953 executions of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Shielding Devyn by Susan Stoker
2. Irresistible Revolution by Matthew Lohmeier
3. Seabreeze Wedding by Jan Moran
4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
5. A Midsummer Night's Romance by Various
6. Doin' a Dime by Lani Lynn Vale
7. Jabberwocky by Steven Gardner
8. Building an Elite Organization by Don Wenner
9. Fake by Kylie Scott
10. Fallen Jester by Devney Perry

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