Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley


Bookstore Sales Up 42.1% in August, Up 38.2% Year to Date

In September, bookstore sales jumped 42.1%, to $881 million, compared to September 2020, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. September 2020 was the sixth full month that reflected severe measures taken in the U.S. to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which included widespread lockdowns. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, sales this September rose 1.1% in relation to September 2019.

For the year to date, bookstore sales are up 38.2%, to $6.4 billion.

Total retail sales in September rose 14.6%, to $608 billion. So far this year, total retail sales have risen 20.2%, to $5.4 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

The Book Bus Coming to Licking County, Ohio

The Book Bus, a mobile bookstore featuring new and used titles for all ages, will soon hit the road in Licking County, Ohio, the Newark Advocate reported.

Owner Barbary Sanderson, who lives in Thornville, Ohio, and is an IT technician at Licking Memorial Health Systems by day, has renovated a former school bus and is in the process of acquiring inventory. Once the bookmobile is fully stocked, Sanderson plans to make appearances at various events and businesses around Licking County, and in the future may expand to neighboring Fairfield and Muskingum Counties as well.

"I really hope to have something for everybody," Sanderson told the Advocate. "A lot of the new stuff that I've bought has been across all ages and genres."

Sanderson added that she plans to adjust the inventory based on where she takes the Book Bus. For example, if she stops by a brewery or winery, she might emphasize adult fiction, while at a park she'll likely have a larger selection of children's books. Eventually she wants to run book giveaways and host storytime sessions.

While Sanderson has no prior experience in bookselling, she does have a background in education and has worked at a library. "Books and literacy and programming around reading has always been something that I really enjoyed, so I decided to dive in and start figuring things out as I go."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

B&N Opens New Store in Algonquin, Ill.

Barnes & Noble will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony today for its new bookstore in the Algonquin Commons shopping center at 1802 S. Randall Road in Algonquin, Ill., Patch reported. The store replaces the B&N in the Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee, which closed October 22.

B&N CEO James Daunt said the company "is so pleased to open our new store in Algonquin Commons, relocating from our old bookstore at Spring Hill Mall. This is our second new store in the Chicago suburbs in the last 18 months, following our Schaumburg store opening last summer." 

The new store showcases a "dramatic change in the bookseller's appearance," according to B&N, which described the space as "light and airy, with a café, large book rooms and beautiful displays of stationery, puzzles, board games and toys."

Store manager Teresa Noble said: "Our relocation allowed us to reset and refocus our store around books and the love of reading, and we can't wait to welcome shoppers here. This new store is designed with the local customer in mind, and my team and I curated many books just for them. We will also have an updated and expanded gift department that I am sure book lovers will enjoy. Plus, our café will be located right outside of the kids department allowing parents to get a coffee and see their kids exploring the shelves."

Ukazoo Books, Towson, Md., to Close by Year's End

After 14 years, new and used bookstore Ukazoo Books in Towson, Md., will be closing permanently by the end of the year, Baltimore Fishbowl reported. Store owner Edward Whitfill attributed the decision to a "straight decline in sales" since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, noting that "we are no longer making enough to stay in business."

Yesterday Whitfill started a going-out-of-business sale, with everything in the store marked down 10%-30%. While he would not give a date for the store's final day in business, he expects to close once the inventory has been sold and no later than the end of December. Early next month he plans to put  bookshelves and fixtures on sale as well.

Whitfill explained that the store was closed for nine weeks after Covid hit, and sales "never bounced back to pre-Covid levels, which has just left us running at a loss." He kept the store open, hoping things would return to a sustainable level, but they never did.

Founded in 2007, Ukazoo once had four locations and carried more than 100,000 titles. In 2017 Whitliff decided to downsize and relocate the store to its current space on Towson's Loch Raven Boulevard.

"It makes my heart heavy, and yet it seems to be the only course of action right now," Whitfill wrote on Facebook.

Obituary Note: Phyllis Webb

Canadian poet Phyllis Webb, "who filled collections like The Vision Tree: Selected Poems and Wilson's Bowl with poignant insights on the human condition," died November 11, CBC Books reported. She was 94. Her publisher, Talonbooks, said that in the days before her death, Webb had quoted the last words of one of her favorite poets, Gerald Manley Hopkins: "I am happy, so happy."

The Canadian West Coast was influential on her life and work. "We all need to express something about our roots, I think, where we came from," she said in a 1983 CBC interview. "The sea and the surroundings of the West Coast are so implanted in me. I don't feel terribly comfortable anymore elsewhere."

Webb's writing career began in 1954, with the publication of the poetry collection Trio: First Poems, which also included work by Scottish poet Gael Turnbull and Canadian poet Eli Mandel. She would go on to publish nearly 20 collections between 1954 and 1999. Her 1982 collection, The Vision Tree, won the Governor General's Literary Prize for poetry. An anthology of her work, Peacock Blue: The Collected Poems of Phyllis Webb, was edited by John F. Hulcoop and published in 1994.

Webb worked for the CBC at the beginning of her career, as a freelancer and radio producer. She co-founded the CBC Radio program Ideas, alongside William A. Young, and was the executive producer from 1967-1969. After completing her CBC tenure, she taught poetry and creative writing at University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

She was named to the Order of Canada in 1992 and received the BC Gas Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.


Happy 10th Birthday, Parnassus Books!

Congratulations to Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., which celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday, noting on Facebook: "Today officially marks 10 years of Parnassus! We're so grateful for each and every one of you. Whether you've been a longtime customer or just recently found us, we wouldn't be celebrating today without your support. Here's to 10 more years!"

In a New York Times op-ed earlier this week, author Margaret Renkl (Graceland, at Last; Late Migrations), paid tribute to her local indie bookstore, owned by Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes.

"The supply-chain crisis has hit bookstores hard, too, and at a particularly devastating time: For many independent bookstores, holiday sales determine whether they will survive another year," Renkl wrote. "So I do my shopping at Parnassus Books, where the people who work there have become my friends. Even if the book I have in mind for a particular friend or family member isn't available, a knowledgeable bookseller will help me find something even better. That's true at every bookstore I've ever been in. Bookstores are places where supply-chain problems can be easily compensated for....

Shop dog Lavinia with her copy of Patchett's book.

"I was in Parnassus last week to buy a copy of a new book by Ann Patchett. Not These Precious Days, the book of essays she has coming out later this month, but a tiny book about the history of the store, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary on November 15. The Shop Dogs of Parnassus tells the story of how Ms. Patchett and Karen Hayes, a former sales rep for Random House, founded the store in 2011.

"By then all the independent bookstores in Nashville, not to mention the Borders chain, had gone out of business, killed by the online goliath. But Ms. Patchett and Ms. Hayes trusted Nashville to support a store that was just the right size--small and cozy, with comfortable chairs, lovingly chosen books and, perhaps most crucially, dogs. Dogs who offer their bellies for rubbing and who will patiently listen to a child read them a story and sometimes even jump through a hula hoop.

"The Shop Dogs of Parnassus was published in a limited edition to benefit the Parnassus Foundation, which buys books for children who can't afford them. It's a charming tale, and I wasn't the only one in the store that morning to pick up a copy. As I was browsing near the back, I overheard a customer up front reminiscing about Bear, the much-missed mixed breed who wore a diaper and parked himself at the front door, the store's unofficial greeter.

"Sissy Gardner, who is the assistant floor manager at Parnassus, and who belonged to the late Bear, climbed down off the ladder where she was shelving books. 'Would you like a pair of Bear earrings?' she asked the customer. 'We've stopped selling them, but we still give them away to people who loved Bear.'

"That's how it works at any local bookshop. The love goes in all directions--circling back and forth between writers and readers and booksellers and even old dogs wearing diapers. What more could a person want this holiday season than to shop in a place surrounded by love?"

Christmas Book Tree: Nowhere Bookshop

Nowhere Bookshop, San Antonio, Tex, shared pics of the shop's holiday season front window display, including a Christmas book tree, noting: "I know a lot of you are not ready for the holidays, but we just couldn't resist! So check out our festive new window display! It's also a fun to look at reminder that shipping will be slower than usual this holiday season, so it's definitely not too early to start shopping now. And why not get something for yourself while you're at it? You deserve it!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Nikole Hannah-Jones on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Nikole Hannah-Jones, co-author of The 1619 Project: Born on the Water (Kokila, $18.99, 9780593307359).

CBS This Morning: Dwyane Wade, author of Dwyane (Morrow, $35, 9780062968357). He will also appear on Watch What Happens Live.

Today Show: Patti Davis, author of Floating in the Deep End: How Caregivers Can See Beyond Alzheimer's (Liveright, $26.95, 9781631497988).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Bruce Springsteen, co-author of Renegades Born in the USA (Crown, $50, 9780593236314).

TV: City of Likes

Jenny Mollen's debut novel City of Likes "is getting the television treatment even before its hits shelves in 2022," Deadline reported. The Nacelle Company, which published the book, will adapt it for TV under its first look comedy deal with Sony Pictures Television.

Mollen is a writer, columnist, Instagram personality and author of I Like You Just the Way I Am and Live Fast Die Hot. Her digital series, I Like You Just the Way I Am, streams on ABC digital.

"This is a work of fiction, but the story is deeply personal to me," said Mollen. "I've experienced firsthand the power of social media, and the cost a carefully curated online life can have on one's real life. This is a story that first and foremost is meant to entertain, but also to make readers think about their own lives and relationships, especially when it comes to social media."

Brian Volk-Weiss, founder and CEO of the Nacelle Company, said: "We are truly blessed to be working with a bestselling author whose reputation for quality comedy and deep pathos is unsurpassed." Volk-Weiss, Mollen, Michael Pelmont and Matt Ochacher serve as executive producers on the project.

Books & Authors

Awards: Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Winner

The Mark Twain House & Museum has named Stephen Graham Jones as the winner of this year's $25,000 Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award, which recognizes a work of fiction "that best exemplifies or expresses a uniquely American voice," for his novel The Only Good Indians. Jones will be honored at an in-person event December 1 in Hartford, Conn., where he will be in conversation with David Baldacci, the award's founder and benefactor. 

"From the opening chapters of The Only Good Indians you know you're in the assured hands of a master storyteller," said Baldacci, a trustee of the Mark Twain House & Museum. 

Judge Donna Larcen commented: "The best horror stories delve into the imagination and let the reader fill in the details. Stephen Graham Jones turns that on its head by letting his characters' imaginations run wild." Judge Olivia White noted that Jones "artfully places the reader in the novel's scenes and in the culture. His veritable American voice is clear, gripping and very deserving of recognition," while Jacques Lamarre said the author "manages to have strikingly modern characters literally haunted by the ancient traditions and spirits they have turned their backs on. The book is a horror novel, a revenge story, a Native American folktale gone horribly wrong, and a deep look into the dark heart of America."

Reading with... Benjamin Alire Sáenz

photo: Juan Carlos Garcia

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an author of poetry and prose for adults and teens who lives in El Paso, Texas. He was the first Hispanic winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and a recipient of the American Book Award. His new YA novel, Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World (Simon & Schuster), is the sequel to 2012's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was a Printz Honor Book, a Stonewall Award winner, a Pura Belpré Award winner, Lambda Literary Award winner and a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award.

On your nightstand now:

Nepantla Familias: An Anthology of Mexican-American Literature on Families in Between Worlds, edited by Sergio Troncoso. The city in which I live is full of families who live in transition and who live in a liminal space struggling to find a space in the world.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I have always loved this fable that is definitely not for children. And The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams--such a lovely message of what it means to love.

Your top five authors:

Gabriel García Márquez, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison. These are the writers who represent greatness to me. They are writers who set the standard of excellence not only in their writing but in their thinking.

Book you've faked reading:

Ulysses by James Joyce. I hate this book, and I find it impossible to read. Only a crazed literary critic could love this book. I feel the same way about T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Price of the Ticket by James Baldwin. His collected essays on race and the position of Black people in America still stand as a testament to his brilliant mind. Baldwin is the only writer I've ever read who made rage sound elegant.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't ever think I've bought a book for its cover. But then again, when I walk into a bookstore, I already know the books I'm going to buy. And these days I order the books I want by mail.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. My mother and father would not have approved of me reading that book. My aunt had told my mother that the book was written to seduce us to the dark side and was Satan's way of getting to our children. My aunt was crazy.

Book that changed your life:

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. The book has been banned off and on. I read it during the Vietnam War, and it remains the most powerful antiwar novel that I have ever read. That book shaped my views on war.  

Favorite line from a book:

The last lines of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez: " 'And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?' he asked. Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights. 'Forever,' he said."

Five books you'll never part with:

A signed special edition copy of Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. A first edition of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! My worn-out copy of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, translated directly from the Greek and which I've had since I was 21. The two-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary (despite the fact that I have an online subscription) and Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints (which exists in a four-volume set). Did I cheat? I always cheat on these things.

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

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This book blew me away when I first read it. I read it again in graduate school. That was 30 years ago. Time to dive back into the waters of that book.

What made you become a reader?

I had four brothers as roommates. I read to escape.  

So why do you read now--is it also to escape?

No, I read books that make me confront the world I live in.

Book Review

YA Review: At the End of Everything

At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp (Sourcebooks Fire, $18.99 hardcover, 400p., ages 12-up, 9781492673156, January 25, 2022)

At the End of Everything is a stomach-churning thriller that delivers prudent social commentary on the complicated reality of being a teen with mental health issues, and what it means to survive when no one cares if you live.

The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center in the Ozarks of Arkansas is a residential rehab facility that provides counseling and therapy to "emotionally troubled youth." But instead of rehabilitating teens, Hope tells them, "Don't speak up. Don't talk back. Don't question too much, too loudly, too often." Being silenced is as much a part of life at Hope as the "unannounced room inspections, the schoolbooks that were held together with tape, and the days in solitary." And when the guards stop showing up for work, the Hope residents realize something must be terribly wrong. A group of them decide to make a run for it, only to be confronted by soldiers who tell them about the highly contagious, deadly outbreak of a respiratory disease that is ravaging the country, which has forced the government to issue a shelter-in-place order. Without permits to leave their residence, the teens are forced back to the only place they know. With food supplies quickly running out and the "plague" knocking at their door, the "outcasts and rejects" of Hope must figure out how to persevere in face of the disease and the "fear of not knowing how to survive."

Marieke Nijkamp (Before I Let Go; This Is Where It Ends) fittingly uses an apocalyptic thriller to shine a light on how members of society treat people they don't fully understand. The three teens at the center of Nijkamp's gripping novel are Grace, whose anger has landed her in solitary nine times this year; nonverbal Logan, whose twin sister is one of the first residents to fall ill; and Emerson, a nonbinary person who is grappling with their faith. Each teen shares the experience being let down by authority figures they're supposed to trust, being told they're "difficult at best and worthless at worst" and having their mental health issues referred to as "behavioral problems and criminal tendencies." The fear factor is heightened already by the unprecedented situation, but it's how these kids are viewed by the world that is most terrifying. Situated between chapters are stakes-raising transcripts of phone conversations between the residents and their family members, news articles, the ever-dwindling kitchen inventory list and, eventually, burial rites. A chilling yet necessary commentary. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

Shelf Talker: A group of disenfranchised teens in a residential treatment center are left to fend for themselves when a deadly plague spreads across the country in this chilling thriller.

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