Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 16, 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


Bookstore Sales Up 204.1% in April

In April, bookstore sales jumped 204.1%, to $514 million, compared to April 2020, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. April was the first full month that reflected severe measures taken in the U.S. to combat Covid-19, which included widespread lockdowns. In comparison to pre-pandemic times, sales this April were down 20.9% from April 2019.

For the year to date, bookstore sales are up 8.4%, to $2.34 billion.

Total retail sales in April rose 53.6%, to $625.6 billion. So far this year, total retail sales have risen 22.9%, to $2.3 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."

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

Grand Opening Set in New Space for Portland's Third Eye Books

Third Eye Books, Accessories & Gifts, Portland, Ore., will host a grand opening and ribbon-cutting celebration this Sunday, June 20, in its new location at 2518 S.E. 33rd Ave. The Oregonian reported that a crowdfunding campaign co-owners Charles Hannah and Michelle Lewis had organized "to pay for their startup costs in a new retail space, after they lost their first one amid the pandemic, made its goal of $25,000. Their website,, saw 20,000 visitors in the first few months of 2021." After a stint of selling books out of storage units while between locations, Third Eye Books found a new home earlier this year. 

The bookstore is partnering with local organizations like Camp Fire Columbia and Self Enhancement Inc. "to expand access to diverse and antiracist books," the Oregonian wrote. "Portland's only Black-owned bookstore even got the attention of Oprah Winfrey, whose Instagram account gave it a shoutout and whose magazine included Third Eye Books on a list of '125 Black-owned bookstores in America that amplify the best in literature.' "

Running a Black-owned bookstore that centers Black books, Hannah and Lewis track top sellers and customer requests, paying attention to what readers might be missing out on. "What we find is a lot of people haven't been experiencing James Baldwin, or just one part of him," Hannah said. 

Lewis added that Black scholars have written "multitudes of books that often you don't hear too much about down this way in Oregon... so we try to make sure that we bring those books here, too, books that we hadn't even heard of and which our customers are really excited about."

Yesterday, Lewis posted on Facebook: "Yeah, I know my knuckles and fingers are ashy and the sign isn't centered. My only question is 'Will we see you this Sunday and do you want an autographed book from the author?' I have 25 books ready to be signed by author. Leave 'autograph' in the comments. I'll put one aside. Peace Always."

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

Calif.'s Multicultural Bookstore Reopens in New Location

Multicultural Bookstore and Gifts, previously known as Multicultural Children's Bookstore, will reopen in its new home at 260 Broadway in Richmond, Calif., on June 25, the Richmond Standard reported.

Owner Tamara Shiloh and her team will hold a grand opening celebration starting on June 25 that will last throughout the weekend. There will be snacks, refreshments and sales on books and gifts, as well as giveaways.

The bookstore has been online-only since June 2020, when Richmond's Hilltop Mall closed.

International Update: BA Launches Community Bookshop Group

The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland is launching a group to support and provide services for community bookshops that are part of its membership. The Bookseller reported that joining the group "requires bookshops to be non-profit, community-owned and created for community benefit, as a community interest company or social enterprise."

"Community bookshops are a distinct group within the bookselling community, facing their own unique challenges and operating under different ownership structures," said BA managing director Meryl Halls. "As such, we are pleased to announce the launch of a community booksellers group within the BA, which will provide support to community booksellers and act as a voice championing the needs of these bookshops within the membership and the wider industry."

Tracy Kenny, shop manager at Kett's Books in Wymondham, Norfolk, commented: "Bookselling is hard, and running a bookshop as a community creates an additional layer of complications from the start. The community booksellers group is a really exciting development--we can't wait to support each other in sharing what to avoid, learning what works, and generally helping each other manage our unique challenges for the business and community benefit.”

Dee Lalljee, manager at the Bookery in Crediton, Devon, added: "In working with the BA to set up this group we hope to share the challenges and opportunities of this type of bookselling, create frameworks and solutions for making a meaningful difference, and explore how best to contribute to the indie booksellers network as a whole."


BookNet Canada's 5 Questions series, which is currently "interviewing folks who have been championing literature by and about LGBTQ2SIAP+ peoples," checked in with Don Wilson, owner/general manager at Vancouver's Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium

When asked to share strategies the store has put in place to promote specific titles/genres that have brought great results, Wilson said that at Little Sister's, "we in fact rely greatly on our local community to help us discover new books. Generally speaking, there are lots of mechanisms to spotlight books: social media, book features, events and signings, signs/write-ups, staff recommendations, discounts, even just turning a book cover-forward instead of spine-forward. We do those things, but I think what we spend more time thinking about is which books to highlight.

"Having staff that reflects the diversity of queer experiences can really help us find those titles and stories that resonate with people who don't see their stories represented elsewhere. On the other hand, there are many queer readers who come by our store who have built their own communities and discourse where their stories are shared and developed. Asking them what books we need to pay attention to, or supporting their projects, is another important component.

"If bookstores want to be invested in their communities, they have to be in constant consultation and communication with those groups and communities, not just context-less, individual customers."


Today, of course, is Bloomsday, but booksellers were already getting in the spirit yesterday on social media, including:

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France: "Tomorrow is #Bloomsday! Join us from 3 p.m. for readings and music, all celebrating James Joyce and #Ulysses, on our terrace."

Red Books, Wexford, Ireland: "Tomorrow is Bloomsday, the annual celebration of James Joyce's seminal novel Ulysses.... We have copies of Ulysses at Red Books for €3 each as well as other Joyce titles. Don't be intimidated by it. That's not what Joyce intended and some intellectuals have gone out of their way to turn his tome into something that only the chosen can enjoy. Joyce was not a dandy but he was a great Irish writer and anyone can enjoy his vision."

Gutter Bookshop, Dalkey, Ireland; "Bloomsday is starting early here in Dalkey... saxophones and street dancing in the sunshine. Absolutely gasping for a G&T now...."

City Lights Books, San Francisco, Calif.: "For #Bloomsday on 6/16, we're giving away 99 copies of Joyce's Ulysses (specifically the '61 revised edition from Vintage). In collaboration with @dfatirl."

--Robert Gray

Peter Osnos on His Life, His Publishing Career, Bookselling

Peter Osnos

Is there any major political or cultural figure in the U.S. or Russia who Peter Osnos didn't meet or publish in his career of more than 50 years? That career started in the 1960s when he worked a year at I.F. Stone Weekly and then covered the Vietnam War for the Washington Post, and continues today as the head of an indie press, Platform Books, distributed by Ingram's Two Rivers. Its first title, just published, is Osnos's memoir, An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen.

Osnos did indeed have an especially good view in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Besides being stationed in Saigon during the height of the war, he was the Post's Moscow correspondent in the 1970s, as the Cold War began to thaw slightly, and was foreign and national editor during the newspaper's glory years under owner Katharine Graham and executive editor Ben Bradlee. In 1984, he became an editor and publisher at Random House and at its Times Books imprint, then left and in 1997, founded PublicAffairs, which is now part of Perseus Books at Hachette Book Group.

His mentors include legendary political journalist I.F. Stone, Ben Bradlee and Bob Bernstein, longtime head of Random House and an important human rights activist. He was a close friend of Soviet dissidents, particularly Andrei Sakharov and Natan Sharansky, both of whom he published. He's also published a range of U.S. and international figures, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Tip O'Neill, Robert McNamara, George Soros, Vernon Jordan, Andy Rooney, Peggy Noonan, Molly Ivins, Magic Johnson, Markus Wolf, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Most he admired and some he became friends with; others he offers tart comments about.

The book is a meditation on memoir and autobiography, too, and explores the vagaries of memory. (One of its many fascinating aspects is the fact-checking he did about things that happened many, many years ago, using his skills as a reporter.)

He also offers his riveting family history, which includes his parents' and brother's daring and life-saving flight from Poland after the Nazi invasion; his birth in India; and growing up American on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, distanced from his parents, who remained rooted in Central European culture.

Recently we asked Osnos about publishing and his views on current issues and Platform Books.

Shelf Awareness: You have long advocated that books should be available to readers in whatever form they want as quickly and efficiently as possible--as exemplified by the far-sighted Caravan Project, which you founded and ran. In your view, how does the situation stand today, particularly considering the creation of, the expansion of POD facilities, the growth of podcasts and Audible, and, interestingly, the resilience of the printed book?

Peter Osnos: The situation is definitely improved. But my impression is that customers still feel that buying a book from an independent that is not in print or in the store can be complicated. Everyone knows there is a convenient online default for purchase. So, the more stores can promote alternate formats, the more likely they are to be sold. "Good Books. Any Way You Want Them. Now."

SA: How has the pandemic changed publishing and bookselling? What's for the better? What's for the worse?

Osnos: For better, it has been clearly demonstrated again that books are strong in the very crowded media marketplace. For worse, there's further proof of the online dominance of Amazon. Overnight delivery. Often discounted prices. Immediate, easy download. This was especially a fact when bookstores had to be closed.

SA: How do you see the role of books in the current political times, with such deep divides in the country?

Osnos: The Trump era was unique in modern times for turbulence. My view of political books in our polarized culture is that to do them, they should meet two requirements:

A. They must have the same standards of quality, credibility and overall tone as any other book I would publish.

B. Politicians seeking to cash in (often for books they do not themselves write) should be told they will earn every penny in royalties that the contract provides. But paying them multi-million-dollar advances is corrupting to the political process and the people. Public service is not an automatic payday.

SA: In your career, you published many memoirs and policy books and histories by a range of U.S. and international figures. There are groups now--some in publishing houses and bookstores--who object to these kinds of books if they're by conservative figures or espouse conservative causes. What's your take on this situation?

Osnos: Essentially as above; there are people who on principle I would not publish. There are plenty of other publishers who would do them. But if I want to publish a political notable, my A and B principles would apply.

SA: Tell us about your new house--how is it publishing with what I imagine is an independence you didn't always have in your previous experience?

Osnos: Platform Books was our solution to being a publisher who writes a memoir. The idea of having an agent submit a proposal and, if more than one publisher was interested, holding an auction did not appeal to me. So, my wife and I created an LLC and put together a team of pros to do the book, as is done in movies and theater. Think of it as "gig" publishing. We have scheduled our next book, a co-branding project with Harvard Business Review Press called George Soros: A Life in Full, biographical essays by leading specialists in the many aspects of Soros's life and work.

The reality is that in today's world, if you write a book, you can find a way to make it available to people who might be interested, from few to many.


Oprah's Book Club Pick: The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

Oprah Winfrey has chosen The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris as her 91st Oprah's Book Club selection. Winfrey said: "As I read this masterful novel I kept thinking--this young 29-year-old is a first-time author, so how did he do this?... As the best writers can do, Nathan takes us back in time, and helps us to feel we are right there with Prentiss and Landry as they get their first taste of freedom. I rooted for them, and feared for them too." 

She added that while she loves engaging readers in conversation around the work of established writers, "there's no greater joy than having the opportunity to help introduce emerging authors to the world."

Harris commented: "I'm so thrilled and honored. For a generation, Oprah has been a committed advocate for authors, elevating their work and enlivening the literary landscape. To join the ranks of her previous selections is to have a dream come true. I'm endlessly grateful, and can't wait to join Oprah, and so many new readers, in discussing my book."

Oprah's in-depth, face-to face conversation with Nathan Harris will stream on Apple TV+ starting July 23. 

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bryan Burrough on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Bryan Burrough, co-author of Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth (Penguin Press, $32, 9781984880093).

CBS This Morning: Ursula Burns, author of Where You Are Is Not Who You Are: A Memoir (Amistad, $27.99, 9780062879295).

PBS Newshour: Hakeem Oluseyi, co-author of A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars (Ballantine, $28, 9781984819093).

Movies: The Furry Fortune

Juju Journey Brener and Mason Blomberg will star in The Furry Fortune, adapted from D. Goode Morgan's popular children's book, Deadline reported. The cast also includes are Shane Hartline (Addicted to You), Mo Allen, Sean Whalen and its canine hero Henry.

Justin Ward will adapt and direct the live-action family feature, with Morgan serving as executive producer. Brad Wilson is producing, marking Ward and Wilson's third film collaboration, Deadline noted. Three-time Grammy and six-time Emmy nominee Steve Dorff will compose the score as well as write original songs.

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN/Malamud Winner, Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Shortlist

Charles Baxter won the 2021 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, which recognizes writers "who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form." He will be honored December 3 at the annual PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony, held in partnership with American University.

The selection committee wrote: "What impresses us most about Charles Baxter is his range and his near-chameleon ability to adapt to varying characters and circumstances. Working largely within the geographical framework of the Upper Midwest, he finds a seemingly infinite diversity of human life, all conveyed with deep and probing sympathy."

Baxter is the author of six collections of short stories, including There's Something I Want You to Do, a finalist for the Story Prize in 2016; and edited the stories of Sherwood Anderson, published by the Library of America. He received the Award of Merit in the Short Story in 2007 and the Award in Literature in 1997 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the Rea Award in the Short Story in 2012. Baxter has also published six novels, including The Feast of Love, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000, and his essays on fiction were collected in Burning Down the House and The Art of the Subtext: Beyond Plot.

"I am honored to have been selected for the PEN/Malamud Award and am very proud to be in the company of past winners," said Baxter. "My great thanks to the foundation. I have been a lifelong admirer of the stories and novels of Bernard Malamud and am pleased beyond measure to have won the award named for him."


A shortlist has been released for this year's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, which celebrates "excellence, originality, and the very best in crime fiction from U.K. and Irish authors." The prize is run by Harrogate International Festivals and sponsored by T&R Theakston, in partnership with WH Smith and the Express. This year's shortlisted titles are:

The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths 
Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee 
Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton 
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker 
The Man on the Street by Trevor Wood
The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway                     

A public vote is now open. The winner, who will be named July 22 on the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, receives £3,000 (about $4,260), and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier.

Reading with... Olivia Abtahi

photo: Torch Media

Olivia Abtahi is a film director and writer in Denver, Colo. Born to an Iranian father and an Argentine mother, she grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and always had a passion for cinema and storytelling. She is a graduate of NYU Film School and VCU Brandcenter and holds a BFA and MaSC. Her debut novel, Perfectly Parvin, is available now (Putnam Books for Young Readers).

On your nightstand now:

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. I have no idea what's going on, so I'm also re-reading Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible for stress relief. It's a good balance.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Shade's Children by Garth Nix and House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Even though my own novel is contemporary, it's safe to say I was up to my eyeballs in science fiction and fantasy as a kid. I still am.  

Your top five authors:

Jasmine Guillory, Garth Nix, Charlie Jane Anders, Adib Khorram and Jasper Fforde.

Book you've faked reading:

James Michener's The Source. I can't believe it was assigned reading in ninth grade. Absolutely bonkers. There were no CliffsNotes because it is impossible to summarize.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri. I am in awe of that book. It has taught me so much about my own family's history and my own place within the Iranian diaspora. I can't believe it exists; it's that incredible.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Hamid Rahmanian version of The Shahnameh. It's the most beautiful book I own, by far. Every page is illustrated like an illuminated text. It really brings the epic to life.

Book you hid from your parents:

Tamora Pierce's Alanna series after I learned there were kissing scenes. The second I'd read kissing in a book, I'd feel embarrassed to have it in my room!

Book that changed your life:

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore. I'm honestly afraid to re-read it, the book moved me so much.   

Favorite line from a book:

"How shall a man escape from that which is written? How shall he flee from his destiny?" --Abolqasem Ferdowsi. This is the line that inspired my next novel and I can't wait to share it.

Five books you'll never part with:

Sabriel by Garth Nix
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

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

Shade's Children by Garth Nix. That was the first book I ever read with a "twist" in it and I'm pretty sure my 10-year-old self GASPED out loud. I felt so betrayed and elated. It was a huge moment for me, to learn that a book could make me feel so personally affronted.

Intellectual Property project you'd like to write for:

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power from Netflix. There's a princess on the show named Mermista and she is obsessed with a book series called "Mermysteries." I would kill to write a Mermystery.

Book Review

Children's Review: Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood

Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood by Kwame Mbalia, editor (Delacorte Press, $16.99 hardcover, 320p., ages 9-12, 9780593379936, August 3, 2021)

Black boys in the United States have been taught to suppress their emotions, to show strength and most importantly, never show fear. In this affecting collection, author/editor Kwame Mbalia (Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky) brings together the stories of 16 Black male and non-binary authors. Black Boy Joy allows Black boys to see other young Black individuals be fully themselves: vulnerable, happy and free.

"Black Boy Joy" is a term coined by Danielle Young in 2016 that "has grown to encompass the revelry, the excitement, the sheer fun of growing up as boys in and out of the hood." This anthology includes 17 adventurous short stories from Black children's and teen authors such as B.B. Alston, Jay Coles, Julian Randall and Jason Reynolds. In these stories, Black boys are able to cry, laugh, be indifferent, have uncommon interests and even compete in intergalactic races. Black Boy Joy mixes stories of loss, grief and finding one's voice with those that focus on the everyday, like picking out the perfect outfit for the first day of school, playing sports or performing in front of a large crowd.

"The Griot of Grover Street," a three-part story written by Kwame Mbalia, spans realms. It tells the story of 11-year-old Fort (short for Fortitude), who, after the loss of his aunt, must learn how to take over the role of spreading joy across the universe. "Percival and the Jab" by P. Djèlí Clark is about a young Trinidadian immigrant who is followed on his move to Brooklyn by a "c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y" complaining devil who takes up residence in his closet; "The Gender Reveal" by George M. Johnson introduces readers to 13-year-old Malcolm, who struggles with telling the world who they really are.

Although Black Boy Joy is written for a very specific audience, Mbalia and the other authors tell the stories of young Black men with such vivid, expansive descriptions that all readers can experience the joy that radiates through the pages of this book. Anyone, no matter their age or ethnicity, can feel and have a sense of pride in themselves after reading this excellent anthology. --Natasha Harris, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: This anthology for middle-graders is beautifully and unapologetically written, allowing anyone, regardless of age, sex or race, to feel a sense of pride and joy in being true to themselves.

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