Also published on this date: Friday, August 20, 2021: Maximum Shelf: True Crime Story

Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 20, 2021


Union Square Kids: Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, illustrated by Tom de Freston

Tor Teen: Into the Light by Mark Oshiro

Peachtree Teen: Junkyard Dogs by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard

Blackstone Publishing: The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully by Morrie Schwartz and Rob Schwartz

Neal Porter Books: All the Beating Hearts by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Cátia Chien

News

Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore Staff Unionize

Thirty-nine employees across the two Greenlight Bookstore locations in Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as Greenlight's stationery and gift store Yours Truly, Brooklyn, have voted to unionize. They've joined the Retail Workers and Department Store Union (RWDSU), and Greenlight co-owners Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting intend to voluntarily recognize the union.

"We support the organizing efforts of our staff," they wrote in an e-mail. "We look forward to working together with them to continue to make Greenlight a welcoming, inclusive and sustainable place for our staff and our community."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline


Itty Bitty Bookstore in Wis. Launches Fundraiser to Add Mobile Shop

Dominique Lenaye

Dominique Lenaye, who opened Itty Bitty Bookstore last January in Stoughton, Wis., has launched a $20,000 GoFundMe campaign to purchase a mobile shop that would "create an additional access point to the store for those who do not have the ability to access my current store front location due to transportation or inability to make it up the over 20 stairs it takes to get there."

Noting that the bookstore is quickly outgrowing its current home, Lenaye considered moving to a larger space within her current building, "but the logistics of that are just not working out. For many reasons, that kind of move doesn't achieve the mission I have in mind for Itty Bitty Bookstore. Itty Bitty Bookstore was created to be a safe space to explore our differences and present diverse representation to all.

"With that in mind I don't find that a move to a larger space in one small town is what’s best for the store. It is simply just not accessible to all. I am quickly gaining knowledge and becoming more aware of the fact that getting to my current store location is imbedded in privilege and I am asking for your help to change that!"

She has connected with a mobile shop owner who is moving to the West Coast and will no longer be able to run her store. Lenaye plans to purchase the mobile shop, which would "give access to a more diverse population of people throughout the Dane County Area. My goal with this mobile store is to pop up at community centers, libraries, nonprofit, markets and small businesses. This way the store can hold community story times, arts and craft activities and also let those who have not had access, shop the diverse books!... Let's change the narrative one stop at a time!"


GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill


Adventure Bound Books Awards Inaugural Scholarship

Adventure Bound owner Angela Shores with winner Ethany Payne.

Adventure Bound Books in Morganton, N.C., has awarded the inaugural Adventure Bound Scholarship to recent graduate Ethany Payne, the News Herald reported.

Store owner Angela Shores, who opened Adventure Bound Books in June 2018, created the annual $500 award in April. It will be given each year to a graduating high school senior in Burke, McDowell, Caldwell, Catawba or Alexander counties who plans to enroll in private or public college during the award year. All applicants must submit an essay answering the question, "How will you change the world?"

Shores wrote on Facebook that Payne's essay, about how she wished to pursue undergraduate, master's and doctoral studies in pharmaceutical science in order to improve standards of living, address the cost of certain medications and "bridge the gap between capitalistic profit and humane economic practices within the pharmaceutical industry," displayed the exact sorts of qualities that she hopes to support through both the scholarship and the bookstore.


Soho Press: Black Dove by Colin McAdam


Report: Amazon Planning to Open Department Stores

In a move that is about as far from Amazon's online-only bookseller origins as can be, the company is planning to open "several" 30,000-square-foot locations that will "operate akin to department stores," the Wall Street Journal reported. Some of the first stores will be in California and Ohio.

The stores are intended to help Amazon "extend its reach in sales of clothing, household items, electronics and other areas," with Amazon's private-label goods featured. No mention of books has been made.

The stores would be significantly smaller than traditional department stores, which have had on average 100,000 square feet of selling space. But the Journal noted that these Amazon stores would be about the same size as newer stores opened by Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and other department store companies.

The department stores will enable Amazon to offer "consumers a bevy of items they could try out in person before deciding to buy," the Journal added. "That would be particularly beneficial in apparel, which can often be a guessing game for customers shopping online because of size and fit concerns. It would also give customers even more instant gratification than the quick shipping offered by Amazon for online purchases."


Weiser Books: Mexican Sorcery: A Practical Guide to Brujeria de Rancho by Laura Davila


Obituary Note: John Hitchin 

John Hitchin, one-time Penguin marketing director and a president of the Booksellers Association, has died. He was 88. The Bookseller reported that Hitchin "joined Penguin Books in 1959 and remained there for 31 years, starting in the publicity department and then becoming its first European rep. He was made publicity manager in 1962, where he was responsible for innovations including the display dumpbin, and became the first educational marketing manager in 1967, launching Penguin Education. In 1973 he was made development director, launching the Puffin School Book Club."

After a stint in New York as  v-p of Penguin Books USA, Hitchin returned to the U.K. in 1976 as marketing director. He opened the first Penguin Bookshop in Covent Garden in 1980, followed by nine more shops, becoming retail director in the process. In 1990 he organized a management buyout from Penguin, forming Phoenix Bookshops Ltd, where he was CEO. Two more locations opened in Lincoln and Hull before the sale of the shops in 1995.

Hitchin was appointed to the Booksellers Association council and served as president from 1992 to 1994. "He was a prime mover in introducing World Book Day to the U.K. and became an honorary life member of both the BA and the International Booksellers Federation," the Bookseller wrote. Hitchin was president of the European Booksellers Federation from 1993-99. In retirement he remained active, including campaigning for a new library for Hereford, where he lived.

"He was passionate about books, and loved the book trade," said former BA CEO Tim Godfray. "He felt he was so fortunate to have been in an industry which had so many interesting people and fabulous books. He wanted to give something back, hence the time he devoted to the BA and EBF.... He had that really valuable trait of being able to see things as a publisher and also as a bookseller. I got to know him really well and he became a personal friend. On the night John died he had four books by his bedside: the Odes of Horace, the Palliser Novels by Trollope, People, Power and Profits by Joseph Stieglitz, and Keats's Selected Poems. Typical John."  


Notes

Chalkboard: Bay Books

"Yeah, you....come closer! We love our new sandwich board sign, courtesy of our amazingly talented and creative Bay Book Babe, Autumn. Her signs put lots of smiles on people's faces, that's for sure!" Bay Books, Suttons Bay, Mich., noted in sharing a pic of the shop's chalkboard message: "Hey you. Come closer... closer...closer. Phew. It's lucky this sign was here--you almost walked past a bookstore."


Personnel Changes at Eerdmans

Alexis Cutler has been promoted to publicist in the marketing department at Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. She joined the company in 2019 and currently leads the publicity campaigns for children's books, ac\ademic books, ministry books, and select trade titles in addition to handling the award nominations process.


Media and Movies

On Stage: To Kill a Mockingbird

The team behind To Kill a Mockingbird, the hit play adapted from Harper Lee's novel, has released a "Welcome Back" video to celebrate the return of Broadway, which has been closed for over a year due to the pandemic. Playbill reported that the video "features a script written by playwright Aaron Sorkin, who penned the stage adaptation of the Harper Lee classic. Tony nominee and Emmy winner Jeff Daniels, who will return to the role of Atticus Finch beginning October 5 at the Shubert, narrates."

Sorkin said: "After well over a year of darkness, Broadway is roaring back to life. It's a historic moment for everyone who cares about this community, this city, or this ancient tradition of telling stories on stage. I feel deeply connected to all three, and I felt a strong desire to mark the occasion. This short film is the result, and I hope it helps galvanize the artists and audiences who fill Times Square eight times each week."


TV: Foundation

Apple released a trailer for Foundation, Apple TV+'s "highly anticipated, epic saga" based on Isaac Asimov's trilogy, Deadline reported. The project stars Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Lou Llobell and Leah Harvey, Laura Birn, Terrence Mann, Cassian Bilton and Alfred Enoch.

Helmed by showrunner and exec producer David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel), the first season of Foundation will exclusively hit Apple TV+ worldwide September 24, with the first two episodes available, followed by one new episode weekly on Fridays.



Books & Authors

Awards: Harriet Tubman Finalists

The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has revealed the three finalists for the 2021 Harriet Tubman Prize, which honors the best nonfiction book on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery in the Atlantic World published in the U.S. during the previous year. The winner, which will be announced in November, receives $7,500. The finalists are:

Tacky's Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War by Vincent Brown (Harvard University Press)
Hiding in Plain Sight: Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic by Erika Denise Edwards (University of Alabama Press)
Jamaica Ladies: Female Slaveholders and the Creation of Britain's Atlantic Empire by Christine Walker (UNC Press)

"This year's Harriet Tubman Prize competition has been quite exciting," said Dr. Michelle Commander, associate director and curator of the Lapidus Center. "I am in awe of the works produced by all of this year's nominees and am beyond thrilled for the field of slavery studies.The three finalists are phenomenal scholars whose books uncover lesser-known and compellingly told and researched stories regarding the ways that enslaved people asserted their agency as well as the surprising racial and gendered dynamics that animated Caribbean and South American societies during the era of slavery." 


PRH to Sponsor Amanda Gorman Award for Poetry

Penguin Random House has partnered with Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, to launch the Amanda Gorman Award for Poetry, an honor that will recognize a public high school student for an original work of poetry in English; the winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship.

"I'm honored to be partnering with Penguin Random House on their poetry award for high school students," said Gorman. "As someone who found my love of writing at a young age, I want to continue to foster that same love in the next generation of great poets."

Penguin Young Readers president Jen Loja added: "As Amanda Gorman's publisher, we see first-hand the incredible impact her poetry has on readers. We are thrilled that her work will now be a further inspiration to student poets across America through the Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards' newly established annual Amanda Gorman Award for Poetry scholarship competition."

The new prize is one of five creative writing awards given by PRH. Other categories include fiction/drama; personal essay/memoir; and the Maya Angelou Award for spoken word. In recognition of the Creative Writing Awards previously being centered in New York City, the competition will award an additional first-place prize to the top entrant from the NYC area. 

The 2022 competition launches October 1 and closes on February 1. Current high school seniors who attend public schools in the U.S., including D.C. and all U.S. territories, and are planning to attend college--either a two-year or four-year institution--in the fall of 2022 are encouraged to apply. Winners will be announced in June 2022. 


Reading with...Addison Armstrong

photo: Ryan Armstrong

Addison Armstrong is an elementary school teacher and author who lives in Nashville, Tenn. She wrote her debut, The Light of Luna Park (Putnam, August 10, 2021), while in school at Vanderbilt University. It is a historical novel about a nurse who chooses to save a baby's life--and risks her own in the process.

On your nightstand now:

I'm partway through Torrey Peters's Detransition, Baby. I also just ordered several books from presenters at this year's virtual Historical Novel Society North America conference, including The Company Daughters by Samantha Rajaram and Brontë's Mistress by Finola Austin.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Is "all of them" an acceptable answer? The first books I remember were the Oz books by Frank L. Baum and the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, both of which my dad read me before I was old enough to read myself. In first grade, my tastes ranged from Nancy Drew to Little Women. After that, I read just about everything! Some standouts include the Sisters Grimm series, Ann Rinaldi's historical fiction, mysteries by Joan Lowery Nixon or Agatha Christie, and Harry Potter.

As an educator, however, I'd be remiss not to point out that there are so many incredible books coming out now that explore much more diverse experiences from historically marginalized authors. Some recent children's and YA favorites include Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Milo Imagines the World and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Your top five authors:

Jodi Picoult is my all-time favorite author and has been since I read The Pact in high school. Her books are so nuanced, so beautifully researched and so brilliant in their multiple perspectives.

Diane Chamberlain is another favorite, for many of the same reasons. I love the intimate family stories she uses to ask universal questions or reveal little-known periods of history. 

No historical fiction author could leave Kate Quinn off a list of favorite authors. The Huntress, The Rose Code and The Alice Network are so good that I'm mad I didn't write them myself.

I've adored Kate Morton since I read The Distant Hours in middle school and had to go on a long walk through the neighborhood to clear my head. She's part of the reason I write dual timelines.

It's hard to pick a fifth favorite, as so many different authors are vying for the spot. I'd say it's a tie between Helen Hoang, Talia Hibbert and Casey McQuiston. Their books are just so much fun, and they do so much for representation of characters whose joy is often forgotten in favor of trauma and pain.

Book you've faked reading:

In fifth grade, we were given a choice of books to read for a project, but the books had to be on our Lexile level. My only two fiction options were Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and my mother quickly nixed The Scarlet Letter for her 10-year old. I ended up reading Great Expectations and only got about halfway through.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I've recommended Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar and The Book of Rosy by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo to just about everyone I know. Both address family separation and detainment of immigrants, but Land of the Cranes is a novel-in-verse intended for a younger audience, and The Book of Rosy is an adult memoir. Both will tear your heart out and leave you desperate to act, but they'll give you hope, too.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't know if I've bought any books exclusively for their covers, but I love the cover of The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd and the covers of S.A. Chakraborty's Daevabad series.

Book you hid from your parents:

Predictably enough for someone born in the late '90s, that would be the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. I was about to turn 11 when the last book in the series came out, and everyone was reading it but me. That is, until I started cat-sitting for my neighbor and found the first book on their shelf. I read several sneaky snippets before finally confessing to my mom and getting permission to read the entire series--so long as I promised not to declare myself willing to die for a boy like Bella was at age 16. Needless to say, I made it past high school with my life intact.

Book that changed your life:

Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness not only taught me so many important things about the topic, but also that I don't hate nonfiction after all.

Favorite line(s) from a book:

"If we continue to stand by, none of us will have clean hands." --The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue

"They [her children] would be better than she was.... If the world displeased them, they would change it, cracking it open, instead of bending themselves to its demands." --Mrs. Everything, Jennifer Weiner

"He had taught her to love reading, one of the greatest gifts a parent could give a child, and in doing so, he had opened the world to her." --The Book of Lost Names, Kristin Harmel

Five books you'll never part with:

My signed copy of Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give is my prized possession. If you haven't read her books yet, do it now! Some others that I'll never relinquish include The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon and my signed copy of The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty.

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

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune wrapped me up in a warm blanket and convinced me the world was going to be okay. If I could recapture that feeling, I would.

Top ten historical fiction books:

In alphabetical order,

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue  
A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein  
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson


Book Review

Review: Snowflake

Snowflake by Louise Nealon (Harper, $26.99 hardcover, 336p., 9780063073937, September 14, 2021)

Louise Nealon's Snowflake is a novel that keeps readers guessing, a madcap family drama and coming-of-age saga for Debbie, who has grown up on a dairy farm outside Dublin in an eccentric household. "My uncle Billy lives in a caravan in a field at the back of my house," it begins. Billy is a bit of a drunk with an unusual interest in constellations and Greek mythology; he keeps the farm running and is devoted to his niece. His sister, Maeve, Debbie's mother, is less stable. She considers herself a writer and a prophet, fanatically recording and interpreting her dreams. Maeve's much younger lover, James, "was stitched into his John Deere overalls when he came out of the womb and was born into a family without any land."

Debbie is now off to Trinity College as a commuter student to study English, but she is deeply self-conscious and without city skills; she spends "half the day scoping out toilets to squat in and take a break" and cry. Her first friend on campus is Xanthe, a young woman of greater experience and privilege but, to Debbie's surprise, with problems of her own as well. The idea that everyone is suffering something, even unseen, is not a new one, but it is refreshingly presented by this cast of wonky, wonderful, traumatized characters in a chaotic, beautiful, flawed world.

Debbie's first-person narrative is self-deprecating and endearingly messy. Her life is constantly off-kilter, one wrench thrown after another, and this quality could be too much, but Nealon's earnestly wacky protagonist pulls it off. Sometimes life is too much, but Billy will have another pint and Maeve will take to her bed and Debbie will muddle through--at least until tragedy strikes. An Irish country farm (with side trips to Dublin and to a dubious beach house) provides backdrop to an unlikely list of themes: mental illness, social awkwardness, art, class, guilt and different kinds of love.

The title offers layers of meaning: a little fun at the expense of millennials like Debbie? A fascinating shape worthy of study and analogous to the stars Billy so loves? Something precious, unique, ephemeral? Snowflake is that sort of novel: twisty-turning, multifaceted, smart, funny even when it is at its most serious. Nealon's debut shows an expert eye for detail and pitch, and an appreciation for the absurd, the profound and the ridiculous--especially when they converge. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Coming of age from an oddball Irish country family in the chaos and snobbery of Dublin's Trinity College has never been so sweet, funny, moody and real.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: When a Bookseller Handsells Titles to a Publisher

Sometimes booksellers find their books, and sometimes books find them. It's a mysterious ritual that often generates great backstories. Not long ago, I learned that bookseller Martin Sorensen of Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif., had played an instrumental role in bringing Robert J. Lloyd's debut novel, The Bloodless Boy, to the attention Melville House co-publisher Dennis Johnson. Spoiler alert: the book is one of the publisher's lead titles this Fall. My inner bookseller wanted to hear more about that story. 

Martin Sorensen

"As for discovery, all credit must go to Christopher Fowler, the British crime novelist," Sorensen told me. "He keeps an excellent blog, and I tend to trust him implicitly on any books he recommends related to London. A while ago, he had written a post, expressing his admiration for The Bloodless Boy, and its sequel [The Clockwork Assassins]. I bit the bullet and ordered them online. I should note that as a bookseller, I always enjoy finding books that are off the beaten track. I read the Guardian and the Irish Times book reviews daily, and there are a host of blogs and websites I scan looking for interesting items."

Sorensen's hunch paid off. The Bloodless Boy, he discovered, "was and is everything I ask for from a book, i.e., an interesting story well told; and from historical fiction, in that it makes me feel like I'm there. It was definitely a book that I felt deserved a wider audience. I have recommended several books in the past to Dennis, a few of which he subsequently published. Most recently, Northern Heist by Richard O'Rawe, which I still maintain is one of the best heist novels I've ever read. I met Dennis at BEA years ago, and we've kept in touch. He's been very receptive and polite when I've recommended titles to him."

Johnson recalled that first meeting in 2014, "when he stopped by our stand and introduced himself and we had a friendly chat--I love Green Apple and he liked Melville House so it was a mutual admiration society meeting. But then, lo and behold, he followed up with me some time later with some questions, which is rarer than I'd like to admit--usually, it's the other way around, with me pestering booksellers. Plus, he was asking about, shall we say, a couple of our more offbeat titles. Something clicked, and I felt like Captain Reynaud at the end of Casablanca: Like I was at the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Within days, Sorensen had suggested "a very quirky, alternative-history noir called A Man Lies Dreaming [by Lavie Tidhar], an almost indescribably inventive and perversely gripping book," Johnson said. "The thing is, it was only available in England, and Martin suggested I look into it for the U.S. As it turns out, and this should be no surprise in such an extraordinarily dedicated bookseller, Martin watched foreign English-language publications closely, through a self-crafted network of blogs and trades and catalogues and, well, people like me. And when he came upon a book that had what he called the 'off center character' of Melville House, he'd give me a shout-out."

Johnson added that when Sorensen recommends a book or author, "he also notes that he's recommending books that, once he's gotten hold of them, 'I handsell the hell out of them,' as he said of Jonathan Carroll's backlist. So I always know that, well, at least we'll have one very good store in San Francisco behind this one. But in short, Martin's tastes are so exquisite that I've published almost everything he's suggested to me."

Other titles include Eggshells by Catriona Lally and, next year, Jonathan Carroll's Mr. Breakfast.

Sorensen admitted that it's hard for him to describe his own handselling technique because, as all gifted handsellers know, it depends upon the customer: "There are some who I've known for a decade or more, that I'm comfortable recommending a very wide variety of books to them. For others that I don't know, I never hesitate to recommend Christopher Fowler to anyone buying a mystery novel, especially if it's by a British author. Also, depending on the interaction, I've been known to recommend his books to people buying a London travel guide. I also mention to people my belief that Christopher Fowler has already forgotten more about London than Dickens would ever learn. This usually gets a laugh."

The Bloodless Boy, however, was something different from previous recommendations. Johnson said the book wasn't obtainable in other countries, "but in this instance only available from what Martin called The Borg, aka Amazon, where it had been self-published. 'I'm always extremely leery of self published titles,' he told me, but Bloodless Boy, and its sequel, 'are excellent reads. Great historical novels. The research and writing is such that I felt as though I was in London back in 1678.' " Johnson found a used copy on another marketplace "and consumed it like a thirsty man drinks a glass of cold water." The rest is history, of a different sort.

And how will Sorensen handsell The Bloodless Boy? "Anyone buying historical fiction is fair game, as well as anyone buying science history," he replied. "London fans will also hear about The Bloodless Boy from me. As I said, it's hard to say ahead of time." 

--Robert Gray, editor

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