Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 11, 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


Socialight Society Arriving in Lansing, Mich., This Weekend

Socialight Society, a Black-owned bookstore that began as a bookclub and pop-up shop, will open a "microshop" inside Soul Nutrition, a smoothie and tea shop in downtown Lansing, Mich., this weekend. 

Owner Nyshell Lawrence told the Lansing State Journal that she carries titles for all ages, from children's books to YA to classics, with a particular emphasis on books written by Black women. "Socialight Society is really big on making sure that women--specifically Black women--feel seen and feel celebrated."

The store's inventory consists of new and used books and rotates based on the time of year and current events. Sometimes, Lawrence noted, customers might be unaware that a Black author wrote a book about a particular subject. "This space makes that visible for everyone."

She plans to stock more titles by local authors, and Lawrence wants to make the space a hub for writers and creatives. There is also a Socialight Society page through which customers can order.

Lawrence hopes to open a bricks-and-mortar space of her own, and to that end she is raising money with the help of the community nonprofit Dreams and Visions Manifested. She and Kim Milton-Mackey, who runs Dreams and Visions Manifested, are working to raise $10,000.

A bookstore visit in 2017 inspired Lawrence to open a store of her own. She left the store disappointed by the lack of books by Black authors and particularly by Black women, and that night she started thinking of creating "something that would be for Black women that would celebrate us."

The earliest iteration of Socialight Society was as an online bookclub, with Lawrence curating readings lists for a group of her friends and peers. From there she started appearing at pop-up shops around Lansing, at places like Afterglow Market and Social Sloth Café.

Following an RSVP-only celebration on Saturday, Socialight Society will be open six days per week.

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

Yu and Me Books Opening in NYC Next Month

Lucy Yu

Yu and Me Books, an independent bookstore and coffee shop, will open next month in New York City's Chinatown, Bowery Boogie reported.

Owner Lucy Yu launched a GoFundMe campaign earlier this year to help her open the store, which has raised more than $11,500 to date. The bookstore will reside at 44 Mulberry St., in a space that previously housed a funeral supply store. The cafe menu includes coffee and a variety of espresso-based drinks as well as snacks like red bean buns, sweet butter loaves and sesame balls. The books Yu carries will amplify diverse voices and immigrant stories in particular.

"There is a huge lack of representation within the literary space, and I would love to create a space where everyone feels welcomed and heard," Yu wrote on her GoFundMe page. "It's something special to read a story that you relate to and see yourself represented after a lifetime of not being able to."

Yu has a beer and wine license fast-tracked for the store; Bowery Boogie noted that her application states the bookstore will have a "quiet and relaxed environment for patrons who want to read."

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

New Shakespeare & Co. Slated for Norwalk, Conn.

Shakespeare & Co. on Manhattan's Upper West Side

A new Shakespeare & Co. location is coming to the SoNo Collection mall in South Norwalk, Conn. While CEO Dane Neller did not say when the bookstore would officially open, he did confirm the plans to The Hour.

Neller said he had hoped to open the Connecticut location in 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed his plan. "It's a beautiful new mall. Malls got pretty hurt by the pandemic but it appears that, hopefully, we are coming out the other end."

Details on the new store were scarce, but it will have an Espresso Book Machine capable of printing some seven million titles on demand. The Hour noted that the SoNo Collection mall is also home to an Amazon 4-Star store, which carries some books.

Shakespeare & Co. (no relation to the Paris bookstore of the same name) has two locations in Manhattan and one in Philadelphia, Pa. The Norwalk store will be the bookstore's first outside of a major city.

Kenny Brechner: We Need to Talk About the ABA and Free Expression

Kenny Brechner

Kenny Brechner, owner of DDG Booksellers, Farmington, Maine, last month resigned from the board of the American Booksellers Association, marking the first time in our memory that an ABA board member had resigned in protest.

Brechner's protest was about a change in policy concerning free expression. For much of its existence, the ABA has been a strong supporter of free expression, so much so that it founded the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression in 1990 to fight threats to the First Amendment rights of booksellers and their customers. (In 2014, the Foundation was folded into the association to create administrative efficiencies and broaden its work; it was renamed the American Booksellers for Free Expression Group at ABA, or ABFE.) The defense of free speech was a pillar of the association's goals and commitment. But the association has quietly changed its approach to free expression.

Shelf Awareness recently spoke with Brechner about his resignation and the new approach, which he described as a shift by the ABA "from active defense and engagement as an advocate of free speech to a resource provider who will funnel booksellers to organizations that are doing the work," like the Media Coalition and the Kids Right to Read Project of the National Coalition Against Censorship. The ABA will no longer, he continued, "actively participate in defending publishers against calls for censorship, join in efforts to fight legal threats to First Amendment expression which impact booksellers, actively fight school censorship cases or actively take positions on First Amendment issues," all this in an industry that is "particularly vulnerable and attractive to censorship."

To make the change, several parts of the Ends Policy, which guides the association's work, were reworded. The new phrase regarding free expression, which Brechner called "strategically nebulous," reads, "Core members have the resources in support of their right to freedom of expression." Other references to free expression in a legal or regulatory context were removed, he said.

Brechner proposed that the phrase free expression (shown in bold below) be added to key sections of the Ends Policy. Thus, "The American Booksellers Association exists so that its core membership of independent bookstores can operate successfully as sustainable businesses and constitute a vital channel in the U.S. book market. This will be achieved at a level that justifies the resources invested while ensuring the association's long-term financial sustainability. This also will be done in a manner that demonstrates a commitment to antiracism, equity, access, representation and free expression.... Legal and regulatory policies reflect the interests of independent bookstores in such areas as antitrust action, free expression and small business assistance."

The change has come about, Brechner added, because of tension between two approaches. Traditional support of the First Amendment emphasizes what he called "a freedom to philosophy," where freedom of speech is encouraged and speech is regulated only when it "takes away the freedom of someone else, such as in cases of illegal harm, libel, slander or the provocation of violence such as a face-to-face racial slur, which constitutes assault."

The newer "selective support" of free speech has "a freedom from philosophy," Brechner said, which posits that "some books can be seen as sources of actionable harm that require censorship as a means of protecting individuals from them."

Brechner said that the core issue is the view of some booksellers that "free expression is an impediment to values recently enumerated in its Ends Policies--antiracism, equity, access, and representation," which he called "a false premise." History, he continued, shows that "free expression is the bulwark of those values. It's a false argument that the First Amendment and DEI matters are mutually exclusive."

Some proponents of the limited approach to free expression argue, he said, that "both-siderism," a recent narrow redefinition of much of journalism and free expression, "is always racist, and free expression is both-siderism, so free expression is racist." He called it "closed-loop reasoning" that doesn't allow for open debate or critical reasoning. He also noted the argument that advocates of free speech are primarily those in power who don't want to give up their power. However, he said, free expression has always benefited minority voices and historically in the U.S., those minority voices have been the groups and ideals that the ABA says it wants to support and protect.

Brechner noted that in history "no one censored a book without thinking they were making the world a better place or protecting people." The ABA's approach is considered "a new take" by its adherents, but it's merely "a different wrinkle put on the age-old impulse to censor views you don't like," Brechner said. "Only by supporting all speech is our speech protected."

The drive to censor is all the more dangerous because, as he's pointed out, the political pendulum swings with regularity. "The ABA perceives this as a right-wing issue," but that historically is inaccurate. "Free expression has always supported minority voices, and just because you don't like a particular minority voice right now" doesn't make censorship right, he said.

Brechner called his decision to resign from the ABA board "wrenching" but something he needed to do because "I care about the ABA deeply. Having a wider discussion and creating an environment where critical discourse is welcome on this or any other topic is in the organization's best interest." --John Mutter

International Update: German Book Sales, Publishers Association Poll Finds U.K. Book Pride

While Germany's book market sales appear to be on track to catch up with pre-pandemic numbers by the end of the year, October ended with a 2.8% loss compared to the same period in 2020. The European & International Booksellers Federation's NewsFlash reported that the "stationary book trade still remains down by 6% compared with 2020 (January-October period) and down by 13% compared with same period in 2019. However, a different picture emerges when all sales channels are considered together. Then, October 2021 closed with an increase in sales of 0.8% compared to the same month last year."


A new poll from the Publishers Association found that 61% of respondents "feel proud when a U.K. book has global success, as the organization continues to urge against copyright changes," the Bookseller reported. Commissioned by the PA and carried out by consulting company Savanta, the research found 56% agree that it makes them feel proud when a book from the U.K. is turned into a major film or TV series. The PA said 69% of those polled agree that it is important that the U.K. government supports the British book industry and authors.

"The U.K. has a rich literary heritage," said the PA, adding: "The U.K. exports more books than any other country in the world, supported by strong copyright laws. Some of these laws are currently being reviewed by the government and one potential outcome, 'international exhaustion,' would be disastrous for the U.K.'s book industry.

"The U.K.'s current exhaustion regime allows U.K. authors and publishers to price appropriately for different markets and stops the unauthorized importing of international copies of books coming into the U.K. This copyright protection is vital for U.K. authors and publishers selling their works abroad. Changes to these laws could result in significant harm to authors' incomes, prompt a relocation of publishing businesses away from the U.K. and further support large online retail platforms--therefore damaging the British high street."


BookShelf PH, an online bookshop and publisher in the Philippines, is selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of book chapters, starting with its recent publication, The E-Hustle: What the Country's Best Digital Leaders Can Teach You About Launching and Growing Your Online Business. BusinessWorld reported that the bookshop "hopes the new model--dubbed a public domain as a service (PDaaS)--will be a sustainable way for Filipinos to access a book's content even before its copyright expiration."

"The chapter-bought NFTs will be created into a new public domain version of the book," said Ada A. Ortega, co-founder of Bookshelf PH, adding that it will "be posted on Bookshelf PH and other channels for all to access and download, anytime and anywhere. The release also allows anyone to reproduce the content.... The contents of The E-Hustle are produced by Bookshelf PH which means that we have the right to make it public domain. The buyer of the NFTs, on the other hand, only has ownership of the NFT artwork with the additional utility of being named the presenting sponsor of the respective chapter once it is released into public domain." --Robert Gray


Cool Idea of the Day: Main Street Holiday Box

Dog-Eared Books, Ames, Iowa, has introduced the Main Street holiday box, featuring four items from four different local Main Street businesses, including Little Woods Herbs & Tea, Z.W. Mercantile, and Oak Lane Candle Co.

"These local items, curated for the Main Street 2021 holiday box, are meant to give the ultimate feel of winter coziness," Dog-Eared Books noted. "In each box you'll find Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley, Royal Pomander tea, Honey Cream Balm, & a Hand-Poured Candle. Holiday boxes are available only for in-store purchase at Dog-Eared Books. Make gift-giving easy this year and grab one for yourself or someone in your life who you know loves to be cozy."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ai Weiwei on CBS This Morning

Fresh Air: Elliot Ackerman, co-author of 2034: A Novel of the Next World War (Penguin Press, $27, 9781984881250)

CBS This Morning: Ai Weiwei, author of 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir (Crown, $32, 9780553419467).

This Weekend on Book TV: The Brooklyn Book Festival

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, November 13
8 a.m. Walter Hood, co-author of Black Landscapes Matter (University of Virginia Press, $35, 9780813944869). (Re-airs Saturday at 8 p.m.)

9:15 a.m. David Zucchino, author of Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy (Grove Press, $18, 9780802148650). (Re-airs Saturday at 9:15 p.m.)

2 p.m. Joseph Ellis, author of The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783 (Liveright, $30, 9781631498985).

5:45 p.m. Mae Ngai, author of The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics (Norton, $30, 9780393634167). (Re-airs Sunday at 5:45 a.m.)

6:45 p.m. Gordon Wood, author of Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolution (Oxford University Press, $24.95, 9780197546918). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:45 a.m.)

Sunday, November 14
8 a.m. Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of Lady Editor: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Making of the Modern American Woman (Encounter Books, $29.99, 9781641771788). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

9 a.m. George Gilder, author of Gaming AI: Why AI Can't Think but Can Transform Jobs (Discovery Institute, $7.95, 9781936599875). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.)

10 a.m. Dr. Paul Offit, author of You Bet Your Life: From Blood Transfusions to Mass Vaccination, the Long and Risky History of Medical Innovation (Basic Books, $28, 9781541620391). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

2 p.m. Uli Beutter Cohen, author of Between the Lines: Stories from the Underground (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 9781982145675).

2:45 p.m. Phillip Lopate, editor of The Contemporary American Essay (Anchor, $18, 9780525567325), at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

3:40 p.m. Jamal Greene, author of How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession with Rights Is Tearing America Apart (Mariner, $28, 9781328518118), and Wilfred Codrington, co-author of The People's Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union (The New Press, $29.99, 9781620975619), at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

4:39 p.m. Paul Auster and Joyce Carol Oates discuss writing across genres at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

5:33 p.m. Heather McGee, author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (One World, $28, 9780525509561), and George Packer, author of Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, 9780374603663), at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

6:32 p.m. A panel discussion on book publisher Amistad and the work of novelist Zora Neale Hurston at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Books & Authors

Awards: World Fantasy Winners; Aspen Words Longlist

The winners of the 2021 World Fantasy Awards are:

Novel: Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Tor Books)
Novella: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
Short Fiction: "Glass Bottle Dancer" by Celeste Rita Baker (Lightspeed, April 2020)
Anthology: The Big Book of Modern Fantasy, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage Books)
Collection: Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoka Matsuda, translated by Polly Barton (Soft Skull Press)
Artist: Rovina Cai
Special Award, Professional: C.C. Finlay, for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction editing
Special Award, Non-Professional: Brian Attebery, for Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
Lifetime Achievement: Megan Lindholm and Howard Waldrop


Sixteen titles have been longlisted for the $35,000 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and honoring a work of fiction that "illuminates a vital contemporary issue." Finalists will be announced February 23, 2022, and the winner on April 21. See the longlist here.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, November 16:

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones and the New York Times Magazine (One World, $38, 9780593230572) expands on the Pulitzer-winning work of journalism with essays, fiction and poetry.

Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show by Jonathan Karl (Dutton, $28, 9780593186329) explores the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Republican Rescue: Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden by Chris Christie (Threshold Editions, $28, 9781982187514) weighs in on the current state of the GOP.

The Wolf by J.R. Ward (Gallery Books, $28, 9781982179878) continues the Black Dagger Brotherhood fantasy romance series.

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong (McElderry/Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 9781534457720) is the romantic sequel to Ngan's young adult historical fiction, These Violent Delights.

All the Feels: A Novel by Olivia Dade (Avon, $15.99, 9780063005587).

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

I Will Die in a Foreign Land: A Novel by Kalani Pickhart (Two Dollar Radio, $25, 9781953387080). "Camera-eye perspective of the Ukraine Euromaidan protests--if John Dos Passos and John Reed joined Pussy Riot--rich, variegated characters, tense plot. A must read for anyone inclined toward world literature." --Conor Hultman, Square Books, Oxford, Miss.

Tales from the Café: A Novel by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Hanover Square Press, $19.99, 9781335630988). "These four interconnected sweet, simple, yet thought-provoking tales are as wonderful and life-affirming as those in Before the Coffee Gets Cold and make it the perfect companion piece." --Alana Haley, Schuler Books, Grand Rapids, Mich.

We Run the Tides: A Novel by Vendela Vida (Ecco, $16.99, 9780062936240). "The story feels so familiar, yet full of unexpected twists and turns. I was immersed in the beautiful and tumultuous world of these girls on the brink of adulthood. A fun, mysterious, compelling, and ultimately profound novel about power, truth, and growing up." --Sarah Fischer, Downbound Books, Cincinnati, Ohio

For Ages 4 to 8
Sweater Weather by Matt Phelan (Greenwillow Books, $17.99, 9780062934147). "Anyone who has raised or worked with kids knows how difficult it can be to get them dressed, and Phelan shares that with humor as a bear parent attempts to get several cubs into sweaters to enjoy a nice fall day." --Andrew King, Secret Garden Bookshop, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 8 to 12
Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman (Aladdin, $17.99, 9781534482531). "I loved this middle grade book by Gayle Forman. Bug loves summer and spending time with her brother, but when summer comes, it's not what she was expecting. Realistic characters that are so relatable and fun to read about!" --Sherry Fritzsche, Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn.

For Teen Readers: An Indies Introduce Title
The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker (Inkyard Press, $18.99, 9781335405661). "This 1890s historical fantasy about a half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami soul collector is delightfully fresh, dark, thrilling, and immersive, seamlessly weaving magic, mythology, and adventure with a profound exploration of biracial identity, racism, belonging, resilience, and courage. Sequel now, please!" --Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Honor

Honor by Thrity Umrigar (Algonquin Books, $26.95 hardcover, 336p., 9781616209957, January 4, 2022)

Indian-American novelist Thrity Umrigar (The Secrets Between Us) brings a wise, compassionate lens to a brutal subject matter in Honor, her ninth novel for adults.

On vacation in the Maldives, journalist Smita Agarwal gets a call from a friend and colleague: Shannon has been badly injured and needs Smita's help. Shannon wants Smita to pick up a story: a court case brought by Meena, a young Hindu mother, against her two brothers, who killed Meena's Muslim husband. Though Smita is an experienced gender issues reporter, this story tramples her attempts at objectivity, especially as she comes to know Meena and her small daughter, Abru.

In the company of Shannon's friend Mohan, Smita spends several weeks traveling back and forth between Mumbai and Birwad, the Muslim village where Meena still lives with Ammi, her resentful mother-in-law. Struggling to separate facts from emotion as she interviews Meena, her brothers, a local village chief and the female lawyer handling Meena's case, Smita nurtures a passionate hope for justice for the young woman. Umrigar inserts occasional short sections in Meena's voice, relating how she met her husband, Abdul, at her factory job and grew to love him enough to defy both their families. The consequences of their actions--and of their dream for a new India--ripple outward in ways Meena could never have imagined.

Meena's story drives the novel's plot, but the narrative ultimately turns on Smita's experience: her decision to stay and cover the story, her evolving relationship with Mohan, her fierce and complicated feelings for the country of her birth. Having successfully avoided India since leaving it at age 14, Smita is forced to confront the layers of contradictions in her homeland: at once beautiful and maddening, modern and stubbornly mired in ancient traditions. As Meena's case drags on, Smita finally faces the events that led to her family emigrating to the U.S., and begins to consider a new perspective on the country where she was born.

Umrigar sharply portrays the contrasts between cosmopolitan Mumbai, Smita's relentlessly American sensibility and the much more traditional practices that govern life in villages like Meena's. The rights of women are, of course, a central theme, but Umrigar also digs into religious strife, the challenges of loving one's country, and the agonizing slowness of trying to change any legal system. Full-bodied and insightful, Honor is both a page-turning account of a horrific family drama and a meditation on the complexities of love--both personal and national. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Thrity Umrigar's ninth novel weaves feminism, nationalism and romance together with the story of an honor killing.

The Bestsellers Bestsellers in 2021

The top 10 bestselling audiobooks at independent bookstore locations during 2021:

1. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (Simon & Schuster Audio)
3. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Penguin Random House Audio)
4. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (Macmillan Audio)
5. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (Penguin Random House Audio)
6. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Penguin Random House Audio)
7. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (Penguin Random House Audio)
8. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile (Penguin Random House Audio)
9. How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith (Hachette Audio)
10. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty (Macmillan Audio)

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