Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 4, 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

B&N's James Daunt on Bleach vs. Books and Supply Chain Problems

"If you walk into a supermarket needing bleach and there's no bleach, that's tough luck, you really can't go and buy milk as a substitute. Whereas in bookstores, we've got plenty of books to read. If you can't get the Sally Rooney, we'll sell you the Richard Powers or Anthony Doerr or anything else. [But when we can't get a runaway hit or blockbuster that did better than expected] I'll be tearing my hair out and wailing along with everybody else. But it will be a book."

--James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble, in a New York Times article about how supply chain problems are affecting the book business

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


James Patterson's Holiday Bookstore Bonuses Return

(photo: Stephanie Diani)

This holiday season, James Patterson will once again be supporting independent booksellers through his Holiday Bookstore Bonus Program. The bestselling author has pledged a personal contribution of $250,000 to be distributed to 500 booksellers in $500 increments. 

"We are all so grateful for Mr. Patterson's ongoing support of independent booksellers," said American Booksellers Association CEO Allison Hill. "His generosity is incredible, and his recognition of booksellers and the valuable role they play in the industry is especially meaningful to us."

Booksellers can be nominated through a simple, online form that asks the question: "In 250 words or less, why does this bookseller deserve a holiday bonus?" Nominees must be employed by an ABA member bookstore and the deadline for nominations is November 15. Booksellers can self-nominate, or be nominated by fellow booksellers, publishing professionals, authors or even customers. The names of those submitting nominations won't be made public or be revealed to the nominees.

Booksellers who have received James Patterson bonuses or grants in the past are eligible for this bonus. In the coming weeks, the ABA will provide social media assets for stores to use to encourage customers to nominate booksellers.

Bonus recipients will be announced in Bookselling This Week and on, and bonuses will be distributed in December.

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

International Update: Prior New Pan Macmillan CEO, French Lawmakers Move to Protect Booksellers

Joanna Prior

Penguin General managing director Joanna Prior has been named the new CEO of Pan Macmillan UK, succeeding Anthony Forbes Watson, who will step down from the role early next year, the Bookseller reported. Forbes Watson will become an adviser to Stefan von Holtzbrinck and the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, Pan Macmillan's owner. 

"I have spent 23 incredibly happy years at Penguin, first in publicity and marketing roles and for the past 12 leading the remarkable team at Penguin General," said Prior. "The decision to leave was not an easy one but Pan Macmillan is a company I've always admired; it is, in fact, where I had my first permanent job in publishing. The offer to lead a business of this size and reputation, with a commitment to publishing the very best books of all kinds, is something that was irresistible. We have all seen just how important books are to culture and society over the last difficult year and a half, and I'm honored to take up this role to lead Pan Macmillan in the next phase of its growth and success."

Macmillan CEO Don Weisberg said Prior's "reputation as an industry trailblazer is far-reaching. Her blend of creative talent and commercial acumen is evident in the successes at Penguin General. She is results-driven and ambitious for the books and authors while having a reputation for being a leader who is inclusive and mission-focused. I am looking forward to working with her as she joins, as its leader, Pan Macmillan's formidable team."

Pan Macmillan said Forbes Watson's tenure at the company "has been marked by strong and consistent growth, innovative thinking, decisive leadership and the development of incomparable talent in all facets of the business."

"Of my 45 years in trade publishing, my time at Pan Macmillan has been the happiest," Forbes Watson noted. "Now is the right time for everyone at Pan Mac to be refreshed and renewed by new leadership, and for me to give my time to other things."


French lawmakers "are coming to the defense of booksellers" with the introduction of a law that would set a fixed minimum delivery rate for books. Quartz reported that the bill, which was presented before the National Assembly September 29, "is the latest move to even the playing field for independent booksellers, who face competition not only from Amazon, but also French online retailers such as Fnac and Cultura."

"Small booksellers face costs that are far away from those of major retailers," said Géraldine Bannier, the law's sponsor.

Ryan Raffaelli, a professor at Harvard Business School who has studied how bookstores remain resilient despite Amazon competition, observed that no matter whether France's law passes, Amazon will continue to take risks that independent booksellers cannot. "Still, Raffaelli says the latest French tactic is different from similar anti-competition lawsuits brought by U.S. booksellers against Amazon because the legislation is underpinned by the belief that bookstores are not just a form of commerce, but a cultural product," Quartz wrote.

After the law was passed by the French Senate in June, culture minister Roselyne Bachelot observed that "a book is not a good like others."


At the New Zealand Book Industry awards last week, Schrödinger's Books in Petone, which opened in 2019, won the Nielsen Book NZ Bookshop of the Year Award. The judges said Schrödinger's had "a beautiful physical space, arresting windows and merchandising excellence, a focus on personalized customer service and commercial and community reach beyond their own doors. Their inventory is specific and curated, having developed a specialization in Manga and a deliberate differentiation from their local competitor. 

"They've rapidly opened up to social media, built a website, actively ramped up their events programs and ensured they are a part of the small community with numerous book clubs and cross promotions with other local retailers. They are resilient, resourceful, environmentally conscious and they understand their strengths. They have a strong aesthetic and a commitment to being quirky and offering something different. There were so many quality nominations for this award that is difficult to single out one. There are many wonderful bookshops in NZ with incredible histories. This year we honor a bookshop building its legacy within our amazing bookselling community."

"I'm totally gobsmacked," said co-owner Mary Fawcett. 

Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand CEO Dan Slevin commented: "We are proud of all our bookstores not just surviving but thriving in the current challenging environment and were so impressed with Schrӧdinger's Books's tenacity, perseverance and creativity under trying times."

The Book Industry Awards are organized by Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand and PANZ Te Rau o Tākupu (the Publishers Association of NZ), and sponsored by Nielsen Book. Check out the complete list of winners here. --Robert Gray

Managerial Changes at Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore

At Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., Ikwo Ntekim has become general manager of the company, including its two bookstore locations, the stationery store as well as e-commerce and offsite sales and events. Ntekim was formerly store manager of the Fulton St. location and earlier was store manager of the Flatbush Ave. location. Before joining Greenlight in 2019, she worked at several independent bookstores. Ntekim has a deep investment in the mission of bookstores, and is enthusiastically involved in the larger book industry.

Sam Park has become store manager of Greenlight's Fulton St. location. Park worked as a bookseller and shift leader at the bookstore and has strong management experience in retail as well as a passion for books.

Emilie Graham has joined Greenlight as the human resources manager. Graham previously worked as a general manager and handled HR for other independent retailers in Brooklyn and is SHRM-CP certified.

Co-owner Jessica Stockton-Bagnulo said, "We at Greenlight are thrilled at the amazing talent stepping into these managerial positions. Ikwo's leadership will help to take our company into the future, while Emilie's support in HR will make sure we have the bandwidth to support our employees. Sam joins a fantastic store manager team along with Morgan Haywood-Joy at our Flatbush bookstore and Mei Hyler at our stationery store, Yours Truly, Brooklyn, to make our stores welcoming spaces for our community. We're grateful to be working with all of them."

Traci N. Todd New Publisher of Little Bee Books

Traci Todd

Traci N. Todd is joining Little Bee Books as publisher. Todd has been a children's book editor for more than 20 years, beginning in educational publishing at McGraw-Hill and LeapFrog. After that, she edited picture books and nonfiction at Chronicle Books, manga and comics at Viz Media, and board books and licensed content at Abrams. Most recently, she was children's publishing director at Workman Publishing.

"I resigned from that position in February to focus on my writing," Todd said. "I hadn't planned to even think about taking another job until next year, but the opportunity to work at Little Bee Books was too exciting to pass up. The thing that struck me about Shimul [Tolia] and the LBB team is their mission to create joyful books that make children feel empowered, affirmed, and seen. Plus, I already had a few Little Bee books on my own shelves--always a good sign!"

Todd is also an author. Her first picture book, Nina: A Story of Nina Simone, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Putnam Books for Young Readers), was published last Tuesday and reviewed by Shelf Awareness last Friday.

Little Bee Books CEO and owner Shimul Tolia said, "Traci's reputation within the children's book publishing community speaks for itself. We are thrilled to have Traci joining our team to help guide our publishing program in the right direction in this exciting yet evolving and changing publishing future."

Utah's Back of Beyond Books for Sale

Back of Beyond Books, Moab, Utah, is for sale. Andy Nettell, who owns the store with his wife, Marcee, and partners, said in an announcement that "2021 will be our best year ever in the trade. We've achieved a good mix of new, used and rare books, plus a fun quirky assortment of gift items, cards, puzzles and sidelines. The store has never looked better and is on solid footing. With this backdrop, [we] all agree now is the time to sell the store. We are ready for new challenges and look forward to finding the perfect owner to carry on the legacy of Back of Beyond Books."

To help with the sale, Back of Beyond Books has hired a broker, Steve Hitchcock at Touchstone Business Advisors, who will be the contact for interested parties. The owners are selling only the bookstore, not the building, "but will work with a buyer to ensure Back of Beyond stays in the same location in which it opened 32 years ago." The asking price is $475,000, which doesn't include the inventory of about $300,000 but does include furniture, fixtures and equipment. Annual gross revenue is about $1.3 million, and cash flow is $250,000.

Back of Beyond Books specializes in natural history, environmental literature, Southwestern guidebooks and maps, Native American books and western history and carries a wide assortment of science, philosophy, current affairs, rare books and more.

The store's name is drawn from one of Edward Abbey's best-known fiction titles, The Monkey Wrench Gang, featuring Seldom Seen Smith, an outfitter whose company name and hideout was Back of Beyond.

In the sale announcement, Nettell reflected on his bookselling career: "October 2021 marks a milestone of sorts in my evolution as a bookseller. While I sold books for the Canyonlands Natural History Association in the early '90s at the Island in the Sky, and worked evenings at Back of Beyond Books in the mid '90s, I became a full on bookseller/owner upon opening Arches Book Company in October 2001. Arches Book Company had a full service coffee bar, a huge magazine section and an emphasis on genre fiction and gift items. Back of Beyond Books became available in 2004, and with additional investors, I soon had a controlling interest in a second bookstore. A year later we went all in and opened ABC & Beyond Used Books in McStiff's Plaza.

"Even though Amazon was rapidly chipping away the market share in books, the three stores thrived until 2008.

"How quickly things changed with the Great Recession, and by 2011 we had downsized to just one storefront, Back of Beyond Books. Ironically, the recession forced me to develop an added revenue stream not dependent on walk-in traffic, and our Rare Book Department was born. I wouldn't be where I am today without the experiences of the last 20 years and the ability to adapt quickly to a changing market."

Nettell added that he was looking forward to operating a new rare book business, Stellar Books and Ephemera.


Seasonal Video: Anderson's Boooooookshop

Jennifer Finlan of Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, Ill., shared a video of the store's new seasonal window display:

"Anderson's Boooooookshop this month is offering you a glimpse into the haunted library of Count Louis Harold Anderson IV. If you look closely you can see his portrait next to the cage of his beloved raven, Poe. Visit us... if you dare!"

The display was created by Nikki Siebert and Mark Benstine.

Personnel Changes at Phaidon

Ellie Levine has been promoted to marketing director, North America at Phaidon.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Eddie Muller on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Stephanie Grisham, author of I'll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House (Harper, $28.99, 9780063142930).

Also on GMA: Fiona Hill, author of There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century (Mariner, $30, 9780358574316).

CBS This Morning: Dave Grohl, author of The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music (Dey Street, $29.99, 9780063076099). He will also appear tomorrow on the Today Show.

NPR's the Takeaway: Anita Hill, author of Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence (Viking, $30, 9780593298299).

Fresh Air: Eddie Muller, author of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, Revised and Expanded Edition (Running Press, $30, 9780762498970).

Drew Barrymore Show: Bobby Flay, co-author of Beat Bobby Flay: Conquer the Kitchen with 100+ Battle-Tested Recipes (Clarkson Potter, $32.50, 9780593232385).

Ellen: Anderson Cooper, co-author of Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty (‎Harper, $30, 9780062964618).

Daily Show: Richard Antoine White, author of I'm Possible: A Story of Survival, a Tuba, and the Small Miracle of a Big Dream (Flatiron, $27.99, 9781250269645).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Stanley Tucci, author of Taste: My Life Through Food (Gallery, $28, 9781982168018).

Drew Barrymore Show: Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, author of Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter (Amistad, $17.99, 9780062953810).

Late Late Show with James Corden: Gabrielle Union, author of You Got Anything Stronger?: Stories (‎Dey Street, $27.99, 9780062979933).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Anthony Doerr, author of Cloud Cuckoo Land (Scribner, $30, 9781982168438).

TV: Shōgun

FX has revealed the full cast for its updated version of Shōgun, based on the novel by James Clavell. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the limited series will star Hiroyuki Sanada (Army of the Dead, Lost), Anna Sawai (F9, Pachinko) and Cosmo Jarvis (Raised by Wolves). Production has begun in Vancouver, though FX hasn't set a premiere date.

The ensemble cast will also feature Tadanobu Asano, Fumi Nikaido, Tokuma Nishioka, Takehiro Hira, Ako, Shinnosuke Abe, Yasunari Takeshima, Hiroto Kanai, Toshi Toda, Hiro Kanagawa, Néstor Carbonell, Yuki Kura, Tommy Bastow, Moeka Hoshi, Yoriko Doguchi and Yuka Kouri.

Shōgun "was previously adapted for a 1980 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, which told the story mostly through the eyes of his character, an English sailor named John Blackthorne," THR noted. 

Discussing the series order in 2018, FX Networks chief John Landgraf said the new version would explore "a whole lot of point of view that was omitted from the original series because it was thought at that time that American audiences wouldn't want to see the story from the Japanese point of view. And now, I think you have to tell the story from the Japanese as well as Western point of view."

Books & Authors

Awards: Christy Finalists

The 28 finalists in nine categories for the 2021 Christy Awards, sponsored by the EPCA and recognizing "excellence in the art of Christian fiction and to honor the power of faith in story," can be seen here. Winners will announced October 28.

Book Review

Review: God of Mercy

God of Mercy by Okezie Nwoka (Astra House, $27 hardcover, 304p., 9781662600838, November 2, 2021)

Tradition and change clash to devastating effect in Okezie Nwoka's compelling and heartrending debut, God of Mercy. The novel is set in two postcolonial African villages, one following Igbo beliefs and the other following a form of Christianity.

Ichulu villager Ofodile's promising youth has ripened into a troubled and bitter adulthood after years of failing to find a cure for his daughter Ijeoma's inability to speak. The village itself is troubled by flooding and erosion. The dibia, the community's spiritual leader, doctor and adviser, determines that the nearby Christ-worshipping village of Amalike has cursed Ijeoma and Ichulu. An attempt to make peace ends with the killings of several young men from Ichulu and the banishment of the survivors, including Ijeoma's beloved older cousin Uzodi. Ofodile becomes further embittered, believing he has failed to protect his deceased brother's son.

Then Ijeoma gains the power of levitation, hanging in the sky "like fruit too precious to pluck or a thought too erratic to name." The dibia pronounces her ability the sign of a holy war between Chukwu, the highest ranking god, and Ani, whom the village has traditionally worshipped. However, Ofodile sees Ijeoma's flight as just another sign of her abnormalcy. Meanwhile, a sadistic Christian pastor and faith healer in Amalike will stop at nothing to see any hint of Igbo faith stamped out forever, and word of Ijeoma and her ability has reached his ears.

Nwoka writes with a sure rhythm all their own, slipping easily between structured passages and stream of consciousness inner monologues. Alternating between third-person narrative and the diary entries of a mysterious prisoner, God of Mercy translates major religious conflicts to a small, personal scale. The faith healer in Amalike personifies the evangelical belief that only the Christian god is real, and that other religions must be eliminated. At the same time, Ichulu's citizens go through confusion and conflict as the apparent war between their deities calls into question beliefs and rituals they have adhered to for many years. At the center of the storm, Ijeoma's pure heart and sense of compassion alter the trajectory of events in ways that will earn readers' affection but leave them fearing for her. While the front matter includes a map and cast of characters, Nwoka trusts readers to follow the story without much expository cultural background, and the result feels authentic and organic. Book clubs looking for stories to inspire deep discussion need look no further. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: Okezie Nwoka's compelling debut follows crisis and conflict between a traditional Igbo village and a neighboring village of Christian converts, spurred on by a girl who can fly.

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