Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, October 13, 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

Neighborhood Books Opens in Presque Isle, Maine

Neighborhood Books has opened at 375 Main St. in Presque Isle, Maine. Mainebiz reported that owner Laura Hale is "experiencing success in just a few weeks since she, along with husband Brandon and their children Lucy and Benny, "recently cut the ribbon on the enterprise."

"People say that people don't read anymore, but I don't think that's true," Hale said. "A really exciting thing for me--and my favorite part of being a bookseller so far--is people saying that they haven't read in a long time, but having a local bookstore is making them excited about getting back into reading."

A native to the area, Hale worked as a social worker for several years but gave that up four years ago to be a stay-at-home parent. For the past five years, she has also sold books for Usborne Publishing, a British publisher of children's books.

"I did lots of book fairs at local schools and libraries. I was selling books like crazy," she said, adding that she wanted to branch out to other distributors and demographics. "About a year and a half ago, we went to a local independent bookstore and I looked at my husband and said, 'I really want to open a bookstore.' He got kind of excited and said, 'Well, let's look into it.' "

Laura Hale at Neighborhood Books

Hale contacted New Ventures Maine, a career-support service operating under the University of Maine System, Mainebiz noted. A New Venture microenterprise specialist, Karin Petrin, met with Hale via online conference once or twice a week and helped her write a business plan and secure start-up funding. Late last year, the Hales began looking for a possible location and in June found an affordable 450-square-foot spot available to lease.

Noting that the building's owner gave them two months of free rent because they were a new business, Mainebiz wrote that there "wasn't much to do in the way of fitting up the space, which is wide open and simply needed shelving and simple furniture."

"My husband and I drove to IKEA in Massachusetts one week and got all our bookcases," said Hale, adding that she is now working with a wholesale company and five publishing houses to build her inventory. "That was the hardest part, because I wanted to make sure I was getting what people wanted. It took me three weeks to a month to build all my orders."

One thing she was optimistic about was community support: "My customers through Usborne were always telling me they wanted a bookstore. I'm active on social media so I'd post about it on my personal page quite often, and people were so encouraging. And they've definitely shown up since I've opened.... Most people say, 'You can't have a bookstore these days' and 'People won't order and buy from you because everything's online. But it's been three weeks so far and we're already past what we thought we would have sold at half a year. So I'm really happy with that and just trying to keep up at this point."


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


Denver's BookBar Hires Four

BookBar, Denver, Colo., has hired four "seasoned industry professionals to take the store into a vibrant post-pandemic future," the store has announced. "This team will lead the way on our planned addition of a new event space and book art gallery and other plans in development."

Jonah Kaplan was hired to manage the bar in July after moving to Denver from Miami, where he managed restaurant operations for his family's bookstores, Books & Books. He joined Books & Books after sustaining a career-ending injury while pursuing a sports degree at the University of Miami. He looks forward to introducing BookBar's new literary-themed cocktail menu and expanding its catering options for events. "A bookstore is so much more than retail," Kaplan said. "It is a community place that brings magic and culture to its surroundings."

Katie Rothery, the new operations manager, has more than 15 years of bookselling experience in Denver, beginning as an entry-level bookseller in the Cherry Creek Tattered Cover. She has served on the Advisory Council for the American Booksellers Association and on its task forces for Point-of-Sale and IndieCommerce. She is currently a member of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Advisory Council.

Lindsay Goldfinger, the new bookstore manager, has more than a decade of experience working at some of the largest indie bookstores in the country. She has always been passionate about bookstores and appreciated everything they bring to a community. Although she loves curling up with a good novel, nonfiction has always been her jam, especially books about nature, psychology, and mindfulness.

Hillary Leftwich, the new event coordinator, has been the curator and host for At the Inkwell Denver for more than four years in partnership with BookBar and organizes other reading and writing events around Denver. She is the author of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock (CCM Press), Aura--a memoir (Future Tense Books, 2022), and a collection of hybrid forms and prose poetry forthcoming in 2023. She teaches for Lighthouse Writers and runs Alchemy Author Services and Writing Workshop.

BookBar owner Nicole Sullivan said, "Even with the tenuous public health and economic situation we still find ourselves in, I couldn't be more excited about where BookBar is heading with this trusted group of industry professionals who bring with them decades of combined experience."


GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill


Holiday Prep: Educated Guesses; 'Giving Yourself Grace'

With significant supply-chain issues predicted for this holiday season, independent booksellers have been encouraged to get ahead of shipping delays and stock shortages by ordering early and in large quantities. Shelf Awareness has spoken to several indie booksellers around the country to get a sense of how they've prepared for this holiday season, from pinpointing major titles to warning customers of potential delays.

Mary Williams, general manager of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Calif., reported that the basic approach this year has been the same as in other years--identifying big titles and ordering them in large quantities--but those quantities have been "above and beyond the normal." The Skylight Books team also went a little bigger on books they anticipate might be tough to get back in stock, like art books. At its core, though, the "roll-of-the-dice, educated guess part of the equation" remains the same.

Williams added that they haven't increased order quantities "dramatically" yet, as there is a limit to how much overstock the store can hold. While it's tempting to have "huge quantities of every book that might hit it big," there are very real physical space restraints that limit "how far we can take that strategy."

Asked whether there were any titles about which Williams and the Skylight team were particularly concerned, she pointed to The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow (Graeber is a big author for the store). Skylight has also been placing large restock orders for big sellers like Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney, Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zuaner and Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead.

New releases and summer favorites at Skylight Books

On the subject of alternatives to those major titles, Williams said the team hasn't been thinking of fallback titles per se, but every year the staff puts together a holiday catalogue that includes a lot of under-the-radar picks. The store always orders good quantities of those books, so if Skylight does run out of one of the "it" books, there will be plenty of staff picks to recommend to customers.

When it comes to sidelines and nonbook items, booksellers have been keeping "extended freight and delivery times in mind," but the pressure is less pronounced than it is with books. Generally customers browse the store's gifts without knowing exactly what they're looking for, while book buyers often come in for specific titles. "So we have more flexibility to work around items that are hard to get or are out of stock."

The store has yet to start its holiday messaging in earnest, but the team will be posting encouragement to shop early on the store's website, the inside cover of the holiday catalog and all over its social media accounts. They'll also be suggesting in-store pickup over shipping, as they are wary of post office delays, lost packages and porch pirates. And given that these supply chain issues are affecting all industries, Williams hopes customers will be "hearing the message to shop early in more than one place this holiday season."

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This holiday season will be the first that Nowhere Bookshop in San Antonio, Tex., is open to the public, and general manager Elizabeth Jordan described her approach to holiday ordering as "organized chaos." Judging what the store's big sellers might be while not really having historical data to look at (the store only did online sales last year), has been made more difficult, given that many big titles will likely be out of stock at some point.

Jordan reported that she ordered big on lots of her frontlist buys for this season, especially on titles that she "didn't want to have to chase." She's also been paying attention to the titles the store is seeing the most preorders for and ordering up on those. Jordan added that she's sure she'll kick herself when she inevitably runs out of room to put books in overstock, "but better safe than sorry." At the same time she is ordering more heavily when replenishing staff favorites and local bestsellers--where she would have ordered six copies in the past, she's now ordering 15 or 20.

Asked if she had identified any titles that were especially important, Jordan answered that with so many big books coming out this season, it was "hard to pinpoint." She is trying to remind herself that there will always be books in the store that the team loves and are excited to share with customers, and she expects to see a lot of older titles selling this season along with brand new books. The team is already brainstorming some alternative suggestions for customers, though she noted that it's already difficult to get a hold of some staff recommendations, like The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires. Luckly, gift cards will always be available.

Nowhere Bookshop has already started messaging customers about holiday shopping. While the bookstore was closed on Labor Day, the team ran a sale on the website and encouraged customers to use those discounts to start their gift shopping by preordering titles. Now the store is doing a big October Is the New December push and making gift recommendations in newsletters and on social media, even while the inside of the bookstore is decked out for Halloween.

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Noëlle Santos, owner of The Lit. Bar in the Bronx, N.Y., said she is "hoarding" in preparation for the holidays. She is fortunate to have about 600 square feet of basement space, and whatever she can't stack on top of bookshelves can be put into storage. While Santos has identified major frontlist titles for the season, like The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story and Will Smith's memoir Will, she's more worried about backlist titles.

"If you're out of frontlist titles but the whole world is out of frontlist titles," she remarked, "that goes over a lot differently than if you're out of The Alchemist or Homegoing."

Staff members have been sharing their current reads and their favorites of the year with each other, so the team will be well versed later in the season to suggest alternative titles for customers if their first choice is unavailable. Santos has been stocking up on titles that have proven popular at the store; she's run reports on her POS software to see what's sold, and her sales reps have provided curated lists of titles that have done well at The Lit. Bar.

On the subject of customer messaging, Santos said she hasn't made any sort of announcements yet. Broadly speaking, her mindset on the holiday season is, "you'll find something you'll love," and she is "giving myself permission to be out of stock." She wants to capture sales and doesn't want to miss out, but these supply-chain issues "are not isolated to our industry" and "every supply chain is going through it." She's made her best educated guesses based on data, but otherwise, there is only so much she can control. "You have to give yourself grace." --Alex Mutter


Soho Press: Black Dove by Colin McAdam


Reunited at MPIBA; Exploring Graphic Novels

The exhibit hall at MPIBA

Reunited at the Renaissance Denver Central Park Hotel for the first time since 2019, booksellers at MPIBA's FallCon were grateful to be together and upbeat. They reported a variety of experiences during the pandemic: bookstores near the National Parks experienced a surge in sales; others temporarily converted to online shipping centers. Some booksellers bought stores during the pandemic; others signed leases to open later this year or early in 2022.

Some of the most energetic conversations happened around the exhibit hall, as booksellers peeked at upcoming titles, and also during the Ideas Exchange roundtables, as veterans counseled newer booksellers on the pros and cons of databases, digital marketing, events and customer loyalty programs, among many other freewheeling topics.

Saturday's "Panel on Panels: Curating and Selling Manga & Graphic Novels" featured author Stephen Graham Jones (Memorial Ride, illustrated by Maria Wolf; University of New Mexico Press) and author-illustrator Priya Huq (Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab, Amulet, November 16, 2021), who discussed their creative processes, along with Tokyopop U.S. marketing director Kae Winters and Allison Senecal, manager and buyer, Old Firehouse Bookstore, Fort Collins, Colo.

(l.-r.) Stephen Graham Jones, Priya Huq, Kae Winters, Allison Senecal

Jones said he wrote the script for Memorial Ride in 2016 after attending Indigenous Comic Con in New Mexico. "I fell into a John Wayne hole," he said, "I think I was trying to figure out America. I'm the only one to kill him--John Wayne must die." Memorial Ride follows American Indian soldier Cooper Town when he comes back from Afghanistan to attend his father's funeral in Oklahoma. At a drugstore, Cooper comes across a gang of "stickup folks, John Waynes" who chase him. "My first novel, Fast Red Road, published in 2000, was also a chase novel. I guess the message is I haven't grown much as a writer," Jones joked.

Priya Huq started Piece by Piece, her debut book, in 2017. Her graphic novel features 13-year-old Nisrin, a Bangladeshi American girl about to start high school, who's attacked by Neo-Nazis. Nisrin's decision to wear hijab causes tensions within her own family as well as in her school. Illustrating Piece by Piece in full color throughout was a laborious process for the author; Huq explained that in the U.S., illustrators are responsible for paying colorists themselves, and it's often challenging, when artists are just starting out, to compensate colorists appropriately for the work they do. Huq contrasted the U.S. approach with Japan's, where colorists serve as mentees to artist-mentors in a studio setting.

Kae Winters pointed out that manga books are predominantly black and white. She made available a "Manga 101" handout with definitions, then highlighted a few key terms: manga is a comic book, and anime is the animated version; they're also read right to left. Manga is usually published chapter by chapter, then bound into big books sold in convenience stores in Japan. Many manga fans get their information about new releases from Anime News Network's newsletter. Winters said that Tokyopop is looking at print-on-demand for certain volumes of a long series.

Allison Senecal has only four shelves of manga in her store, Old Firehouse Bookstore, "but we sell everything I bring in." She emphasized that kids who buy manga digitally will still buy the books physically. She places manga titles directly across from the graphic novels section. Senecal suggested trying the first volumes in a wide range of series; if kids buy the first one, they'll request the second. If something doesn't sell, return it and try something else. Special orders are key, as some of the series are long and it's impossible to carry them all. Some of the bigger successes Senecal pointed to: Haru's Curse (Kodansha), Captivated, by You (Yen Press, a hardcover!) and Blue Period (Kodansha), which started on NetFlix last week. Senecal also makes clear in her social media messaging that she's willing to order in manga titles if they're not on the shelves. --Jennifer M. Brown


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


The Robin Theatre, Lansing, Mich., Adds Bookstore

The Robin Theatre in Lansing, Mich., has added a bookstore called Robin Books, the Lansing City Pulse reported. The small general-interest store offers a curated selection of new and used titles, from literary fiction and nonfiction to plays and mythology, as well as gifts.

The bookstore will soon start "testing," with indoor shopping hours scheduled for every Saturday in October. Customers can also shop by appointment, and Robin Books is now accepting donations of gently used books.

Owners Dylan Rogers and Jeana-Dee Allen, who founded the Robin Theatre in Lansing's REO Town in 2015, said they were inspired to start a bookstore on a trip to Bogota, Colombia, where they visited a "magical bookstore."

Rogers added that they're reaching out to local authors to plan readings and signings, and working toward establishing consistent hours. "I want to build something that is charming, interesting and valuable to the community."


International Update: Joanne Grant Joining Canongate, Blackwell's Back Online

Joanne Grant

Joanne Grant is joining Canongate as publisher of Severn House, replacing Kate Lyall Grant, who, after 11 years, is leaving to become publishing director at Joffe Books.

Grant has headed her own business coaching writers for the past 18 months. Before that she was at Harlequin for 16 years, most recently as editorial director of Harlequin's Global Series.

Grant said Severn House has "a unique publishing model which has resulted in five decades of success. This continued success is the direct result of the dedicated Severn House team and a talented list of authors, who have been led expertly by Kate Lyall Grant. I know I am following in Kate's impressive footsteps, but I will bring my passion, energy and experience to this role, to ensure Severn House continues to grow and publish entertaining genre fiction for many more years to come."

Canongate CEO & publisher Jamie Byng commented: "Canongate's acquisition of Severn House in September 2017 has been an unqualified success and this is as much down to the brilliant team who came with it as much as its rich list of excellent authors. Kate Lyall Grant has led this team superbly and so it is with sadness that we see her leaving us to join Joffe Books at the end of this month. However, we could not be more excited about Joanne Grant's arrival as publisher at Severn House as her range of skills and experience is formidable and is matched by her infectious dynamism and inspiring energy. I am certain that Jo will help Severn House to continue to thrive as well as shape the imprint in new ways and make it an even more desirable place to be published."

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British book retailer Blackwell's is back online after 10-day systems outage that began September 8, the Bookseller reported. The company tweeted October 8 it was "relieved" to report the website was now back up and running, adding: "We are doing all that we can to get through the backlog of dispatches and to answer your queries as speedily as possible. Please accept our apology for any inconvenience this has caused."

On Facebook, Blackwell's added: "Thank you for your understanding and patience and for all the messages of support we've received too. It means a lot. It's good to be back, and we do very much hope that you will continue to enjoy buying and reading books from Blackwell's."

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At this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, the International Bureau of French Publishing (BIEF) plans to have a total of 107 publishers present on its 1,000-square-meter (about 10,765 square feet) stand, including market leaders Hachette Livre and Editis, the Bookseller reported, noting: "None will take their habitual individual stands because of the pandemic."

BIEF managing director Nicolas Roche said a total of 260 French rights and other publishing professionals have signed up, compared to around 220 in pre-Covid years, but they will not stay as long as usual. Most of their meetings are concentrated on Wednesday (Oct. 20) and Thursday (Oct. 21), with some on the Friday morning (Oct. 22). He cited an estimated 50%-60% decline in attendance as the reason.

The stand will be approximately 30% larger than in previous years. "We won't be able to have a café, but hope the stand will still be as convivial as ever," Roche said, adding that the collective stand "reflects the strong solidarity among French rights professionals. Apart from contract details, they regularly share information at round-table discussions."


Notes

Image of the Day: MPIBA's Books for Breakfast

At Saturday's Books for Breakfast, on the final day of MPIBA, 10 authors spoke briefly about their wide-ranging nonfiction books, including the landmark 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case that determined who owns our DNA, in Jorge L. Contreras's The Genome Defense; Lauren Rankin's story of spending six years as a "clinic escort" in Bodies on the Line; and Natalie Hodges, who had the room clapping in time to a metronome to illustrate the connection between hearing and feeling the beat ("entrainment"), for her book Uncommon Measure.

Pictured: (front row, l.-r.) Zahra Marwan (Where Butterflies Fill the Sky, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, March 29, 2022); Steve Gamel (Write Like You Mean It, Brown Books); Lauren Rankin (Bodies on the Line, Counterpoint, April 5, 2022); Natalie Hodges (Uncommon Measure, Bellevue Literary Press, March 22, 2022); Margaret D. Jacobs (After One Hundred Winters: In Search of Reconciliation on America's Stolen Lands, Princeton University Press); (back row) Peter Hiller (The Life and Times of Jo Mora, Gibbs Smith); Scott Carney (The Vortex, Ecco, March 29, 2022); Diane Morrow-Kondos (The Long Road to Happy, The Roadrunner Press); Jorge L. Contreras (The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA, Algonquin Books); Joshua M. Greene (Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig's Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend, Insight Editions).


Brian Heller Leaves Macmillan

Brian Heller has left his position as v-p, academic, library, wholesale & international, at Macmillan, where he worked for 24 years. He is now considering his next steps and can be reached at 646-221-0219 or via e-mail.


Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster

At Simon & Schuster:

Elizabeth Breeden has been promoted to marketing director.

Cat Boyd has been promoted to publicity manager.

Brianna Scharfenberg has been promoted to publicity manager.

Leora Bernstein has been promoted to national account manager, airports and Costco.

Stephanie Calman has been promoted to national account manager, Readerlink Distribution Services.

Kevin Oller is joining the company as national account manager, Baker & Taylor and Ingram.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Richard Antoine White on Fresh Air

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

Tomorrow:
Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, authors of Peril (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982182915).


Movies: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Several cast members have been announced for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a film adaptation of Benjamin Alire Sáenz's 2014 YA novel. Deadline reported that Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, Max Pelayo, Reese Gonzales, Veronica Falcón, Isabella Gomez, Luna Blaise and Kevin Alejandro will star in the project. Aitch Alberto wrote the script and will make her directorial debut on the movie.

"At its core, Ari and Dante tells a story of self-discovery and acceptance," Alberto said. "My own journey helped me realize there is nothing more important than standing up and fully embracing who we are and being seen for it. I'm motivated to place a lens on male vulnerability that includes a more empathic and compassionate gaze that helps redefine masculinity specifically for the Latino/a/e/x community. To say this is a dream come true is an understatement."



Books & Authors

PEN International Writer of Courage: Kakwenza Rukirabashaija

Novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who was tortured by the Ugandan government in prison over his novel The Greedy Barbarian, has been named this year's International Writer of Courage, the Guardian reported. Presented to a writer who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs, the honor was announced by 2021 PEN Pinter Prize winner Tsitsi Dangarembga. Rukirabashaija is also a featured writer in PENWrites--English PEN's international letter-writing campaign in solidarity with writers in prison and at risk around the world.

Rukirabashaija was arrested on April 13, 2020, in Uganda, and held for seven days, during which time he was interrogated about his fiction and subjected to torture. Rukirabashaija details this treatment, which PEN described as "inhumane and degrading," in his latest work Banana Republic: Where Writing Is Treasonous. The Guardian noted that on April 20 last year, Rukirabashaija was charged with "an act likely to spread the infection of disease [Covid-19], contrary to Section 171 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120," and remanded in custody to Busesa government prison. After his discharge, he was arrested again on September 18, and released on September 21 on police bond, pending investigation for the offence of "inciting violence and promoting sectarianism," charges PEN said are believed to relate to his writings. He remains on police bond, and is required to report to the police every other week.

PEN said it was "gravely concerned" about the physical safety and welfare of Rukirabashaija, adding that the writer has informed his lawyers that he is still undergoing treatment for injuries he suffered during his detention in April 2020. "He has also reported that he and his family are constant targets of extrajudicial surveillance by individuals believed to be state security agents," said PEN, which "condemns the unlawful arrest, detention and ongoing harassment of Kakwenza Rukirabashaija."

Rukirabashaija congratulated Dangarembga on her win, and thanked her "wholeheartedly" for choosing to share the prize with him. "If it weren't for PEN, I would still be somewhere in prison--perhaps forgotten," he said. "When I was hanging on chains in the dungeons, I swore to my tormentors that I would never write again if they gave me a chance to live--as if they were some deities or God. Truth is, I survived death. I appreciate PEN for advocating for my freedom of expression and the different centres all over the world that sent in lovely messages of courage. I received the messages with smiles even though I was in horrendous pain."


Reading with... Sara Pennypacker

photo: Lorraine Scheppler

Sara Pennypacker is the author of the children's books Pax and its sequel, recently published by Crown, Pax, Journey Home (both illustrated by Jon Klassen); as well as the award-winning Clementine series and its spinoff series, Waylon, and the novels Summer of the Gypsy Moths and Here in the Real World. She divides her time between Cape Cod, Mass., and Florida.

On your nightstand now:

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I just finished it--quietly disturbing, yet quietly hopeful. I usually have a children's book on the table--right now, I'm reading Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. It's lovely. As a rabid swimmer, I always have a swimming book going, too, which I like to dip into a few pages at a time. This month it's Swimming to the Top of the Tide by Patricia Hanlon. I've ordered Richard Powers's Bewilderment, so that will be there soon.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The first book I remember being insane for was Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I begged my parents to let me sleep in the attic on a pile of hay and eat nothing but bread and cheese outside. They wisely refused. (They did, however, inexplicably allow me to get a kid goat as a pet.) It was the vivid description of a life different from my own that drew me in, but sadly, when I read the book as a writer, it left me cold.

Your top five authors:

I can't. I'll change my mind and then be haunted forever that this list is in print.

Book you've faked reading:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I really tried, but I just couldn't finish.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I was into The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis decades before it was made into a mini-series. I was just stunned that a book with barely any plot tension kept me up all night turning pages. "That's magic, we have to learn how to do that," I told all my writer friends.

More recently, Richard Powers's The Overstory. A masterpiece, but it about killed me. I praise it to the skies, but I warn that it will hurt a lot.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Ha! Well, more than once I've been stopped in my tracks and had to buy a copy of Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby, Age 8 in a used bookstore. The original cover, the one where Ramona has that impossibly skinny neck, where she looks brave and perplexed and vulnerable all at once. There's always someone I know who deserves to read that book with that perfect cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

When I was maybe 12, I used to go to the local thrift shop in the summers. Every week, I'd buy 10 paperbacks for a dollar, not caring too much what the books were, and consider myself rich in stories. Once, I somehow came home with a copy of The Story of O by Anne Desclos in my stash. Yikes. My parents never knew because I clandestinely disposed of that book page by page in the river beside our house.

Book that changed your life:

A series of novels hit me at just the right times in my development as a feminist. I remember being especially charged up by four of them. Marge Piercy's Small Changes when I was just out of college. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which I read when it came out--Reagan was president and I had two little children then. Whoa. Toni Morrison's Beloved a little later in motherhood. Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory blew open the global politics of feminism. There have been many more books recently, but to this day, when something happens in the world, I find myself wondering how the characters in those early books would react.

Favorite line from a book:

Hands down, it's from Ann-Marie MacDonald's brilliant The Way the Crow Flies. A father tucks his little girl in, thinking he has just comforted her about something upsetting that's going on. The reader knows that through an innocent misunderstanding, he has done exactly the opposite. He leaves the room and shuts off the light. The line is: "And Madeleine's eyes stayed open." I still get chills.

Five books you'll never part with:

There are more, but here are five:

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell--Two brilliant American poets discussing the events of their day and the events of their days; informing, supporting and caring for each other.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry--first read in a French class 50 years ago, and never far from me since.

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler--I go through it once for every novel I write and it never fails to illuminate.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins--for sentimental reasons: it's my father's old copy, and the first book I remember discussing with him.

Roget's International Thesaurus--not for looking up synonyms, though. I love to page through the concept half, seeing how words cross over into different areas, how the English language works!

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

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier--it was the absolute ideal comfort book for me: historical fiction with a strong sense of place, lots of rich period details and no one dies. First time I read that book, I purred.


Book Review

YA Review: The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks

The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee (Katherine Tegen Books, $18.99 hardcover, 592p., ages 13-up, 9780062916013, November 16, 2021)

The final book in the Montague siblings series maintains the same high level of whip-smart humor and sensitive social commentary as the earlier titles (The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue; The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy). Adventures galore overlay the intense challenges of an anxiety disorder--yes, they had anxiety back in the day, too.

Adrian Montague is a brilliant, profoundly anxious young man in 18th-century England. His secret life as a radical writing about social reform under the name John Everyman is at decisive odds with his public persona as the son of a wealthy, conservative member of parliament. Ever since Adrian's mother's sudden death the previous year, Adrian's anxiety and despair have grown crushing. When a broken spyglass that once belonged to his mother comes into his possession, Adrian becomes convinced that she had inadvertently become tied to a sailor's legend about the Flying Dutchman, a ship said to be doomed to sail the seas forever. Ten years earlier, his mother had been the only survivor of a shipwreck caused, Adrian believes, by the ghost ship.

The young man is driven to learn more about the spyglass and why it "meant so much" ("The kindest way to describe an obsession," he thinks wryly) to his mother. Adrian launches himself into an unexpected world tour that encompasses Morocco, Portugal, the Netherlands and Iceland. Along the way, he picks up Monty and Felicity, the older siblings he never knew existed, as they had left home when he was an infant. Adrian's desperate quest masks a deeper need: to understand and conquer the debilitating anxiety disorder he seems to have shared with his mother.

Mackenzi Lee has established a reputation for adventures both swashbuckling and socially sharp. And very funny. She demonstrates her extensive historical research in surprising details about the vibrant LGBTQ+ community (though they didn't have such a fine acronym back then), as well as the taverns, chamber pots, piracy and politics that made up life in 18th-century cities and ports around the globe.

Packed with political intrigue, romance (gay and straight), angry pirates, ghost stories and more powerful female leaders than you can shake a cutlass at, The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks is what the world needs now. Long-suffering Montague siblings fans will be "abso-bloody-lutely" thrilled. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: The tempestuous final book in the Montague siblings series boasts the complex (pirate-laden) plots, keen social commentary and laugh-out-loud dialogue readers loved in the earlier titles.


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