Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 24, 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

Editors' Note

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the rest of the week, we're taking a break to give thanks for many things, despite another difficult year, so this is our last issue until Monday, November 29. Enjoy the holidays, and may all booksellers have an excellent Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Indies First celebrations! (Feel free on Sunday to send reports about Indies First, with pictures if possible, to

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

Quotation of the Day

'There Are Many, Many Thoughts, Many Dimensions in a Bookstore'

"I wanted to set it in the bookstore because I felt like that's a kind of haunted space, by definition. It's a collection of many consciousnesses enclosed in what Tookie calls this 'collection of words between cardboard covers.' But it's really the contents of a person's consciousness alive or dead. There are many, many thoughts, many dimensions in a bookstore. I thought it was haunted to begin with, and I thought I would really give it an extra haunting by providing a ghost....

"All of these things, as Tookie says, neatly package white unease with our country's genocidal and slave-owning and dispossessing origins, right? So, to me, it's revelatory. It's something that tells a lot about the consciousness of people who will make the explanation for hauntings, the Indian graveyard trope, right? But in this book, it's the opposite, because I think that speaks much more clearly to the fact of Native life. We're haunted by the spirits of settlers, by the spirits of government officials, by a history that includes extermination policies explicitly aimed at your nation, my nation, all nations. These are white ghosts. These are ghosts that have been there from the very first moment a pilgrim fell off the rock and sat down at the Thanksgiving table that wasn't."

--Louise Erdrich, author and owner of Birchbark Books, Minneapolis, Minn., in a q&a about her new novel, The Sentence, on NPR's Code Switch

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


'Bookselling and Free Expression: A Conversation'

Yesterday's hour-long conversation about bookselling and free speech, organized by the eight regional booksellers associations and moderated by Jonathan Friedman, director of education at PEN America, drew nearly 200 viewers. It was, as some participants put it, a respectful, thoughtful discussion of what the organizers called "a complicated issue." That issue is the tension between the book world's traditional support of free expression and the First Amendment, and an interpretation of those principles that aims to limit hate speech and conduct and not support in any way people or organizations who profit from or spread hate speech and conduct.

In introductory remarks, Friedman noted that PEN America, an organization of writers, focuses on "defending the rights that make creative and literary expression possible," both in the U.S. and internationally. PEN America sees free expression "not just as something protected by the First Amendment but as a fundamental human right, universal and inalienable," he continued. The organization defends writers, publishers and booksellers at risk around the world, but also fights hate, "mendacious publication and lies and bigotry of all kinds." As such, PEN America opposes "a false dichotomy between free expression on the one hand and values of diversity and inclusion or anti-racism on the other. In other words, we see that it is possible and essential to do both.... We cannot fight hate without free speech. There is no social progress without free speech," especially with the current wave of threats to free speech around the country, particularly involving school libraries and books taught in schools.

Clockwise from top left: Josh Cook, Kenny Brechner, Luis Correa, Summer Lopez, Kiese Laymon, Vicky Titcomb, Derrick Young. Center: Jonathan Friedman

Kenny Brechner, owner of DDG Booksellers, Farmington, Maine, whose resignation from the ABA board over its diminished support for free expression brought the topic to the fore in the past month, likened free expression to "an inclusive buffet in which all the edible foods of the world are on offer, at least all the First Amendment-protected foods. In exchange for not being able to limit or restrict what goes into the buffet, we have the freedom to pick and choose what we contribute or take from it as well as the freedom to avoid or criticize those foods we consider harmful or distasteful."

He called free expression "a tool for defending personal liberty whose operation is impersonal and apolitical. It therefore protects our freedom as booksellers and readers to engage in the personal, in morality and political sentiment, in creative and aesthetic expression. Censorship is the reverse of this. It happens when the personal is enforced on the general, when a particular moral or political viewpoint is imposed on others."

He said that in conversations about free expression in the last year, he has emphasized that the political pendulum swings back and forth, and "the progressive rejection of free speech by the bookselling community would be a grave mistake," noting "an avalanche of conservative and foreign book bans and challenges directed at school boards and libraries around the country. These challenges have been directed at books whose handling of themes of gender identity and sex and critical race theory are ones many of us treasure." There has "never been a less opportune time to step back from a support of free expression," he emphasized.

He added that freedom of expression has, from the beginning, been "rooted in protecting the speech of the oppressed and the critics of power," including, in U.S. history, abolitionists, the suffrage movement, pacificism and the civil rights movement. Some "90% of free expression has been to protect the oppressed."

Brechner noted that harm is a crux of the current conflict about free expression, saying, "You can't address harm by avoidance or apologizing or appeasing or bullying or suppressing your way to safety. Harm is best addressed by reading, by conversations, by dialogue, by criticism, by the operation of free speech.... If we don't tolerate what we find offensive, nobody is free."

Josh Cook, a bookseller at Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass., and author of The Least We Can Do: White Supremacy, Free Speech, & Independent Bookstores, said the idea of free expression means "as many people as possible can be their true selves without fear. The focus of this group of people would be on people writing their truth and being able to read other people writing their truths." As a bookseller, he said, his "primary relationship with free expression is being focused on using my platform and my advocacy to raise up those groups that have been and are being marginalized, and to make heard those voices that have or are being silenced or ignored."

The challenge, he continued, is "how to bring about that for the most people possible and specifically what do we do about expressions that put other people in danger, make them unsafe, or make them afraid to express their true truths."

Cook said he defined harm as "enabling racist policies, enabling transphobic policies, enabling either by raising up the profile of those who seek to enact those policies or funneling money into them," which he called "different from the emotional efforts of difficult literature" and "an important distinction."

Luis Correa, operations manager at Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., said that "in terms of free expression, I'm most interested in disrupting the status quo when it comes to how we think about what we stock in our stores and how as booksellers we can make the world a better place. The status quo has created an allowance for bigotry and power, and has not given the same considerations for the way our choices impact those who are most vulnerable. We need to ask ourselves: Who has the privilege and power? And look to the ways that those who have it have abused their platforms to further hate and violence."

He called it "not contradictory" to advocate "for harm reduction curation in bookstores" while also contesting bans on books that "aim to make a better world for BIPOC, trans, queer and other historically marginalized communities." He said it also wasn't contradictory for publishers not to publish books by "former vice presidents of a xenophobic administration" (one of several references to Mike Pence), "nor for a bookseller not to make a choice to sell that book."

He criticized Brechner's mention of the political pendulum, saying, "When pendulums swing, they oscillate from one side to the other with equal distance from the center point of equilibrium, and at no point in history has the power in this country been shifted away from straight white men even enough to approach equilibrium. The pendulum has never swung in the direction of liberation and equity fully."

Correa continued, "We're all saying that freedom of expression is important, but it's not enough. We need to also listen and to make choices to further freedom beyond just speech for everyone."

He also pointed out that the First Amendment's mention of freedom of speech is in the context of the government not infringing on those rights, and doesn't apply to bookstores "deciding whether or not to stock something."

He contested Brechner's view that the First Amendment was used 90% of the time to protect the oppressed, saying, "More often than not," it helps people with "privilege and power... to skirt the consequences of their harmful speech."

He said any publisher more than a few decades old is "a product of white supremacist culture." As for who's deciding what to stock in stores, stores decide "not to do it when they decide there's no right answer, no clear guidelines," so it's a constantly changing process, and it's "easy to make mistakes."

Kiese Laymon, a professor at the University of Mississippi and an author, said he wasn't sure "what free means in an anti-Black, patriarchal, market-driven economy" but called for "more informed sincerity... in the reading and writing and selling of books." He called books not at all "inherently virtuous objects or products. Reading is not inherently virtuous. Readers are definitely not inherently virtuous. And all three of those do far more harm than readers, writers and booksellers want to admit."

He said he learned many stereotypes from "white books," which were "gleefully given to me" by booksellers and librarians who "would say they had the best interests of me and reading at heart." He called writing, reading and selling books "among other things, inherently harmful."

Laymon criticized "the idea that one can consume harmful things, sell harmful things, but not be harmful." He criticized Simon & Schuster for wanting to publish a memoir by Mike Pence, saying that "proves to me that they have not read many other books than books written by wealthy land-owning white men." Still, he has stayed with his publisher Scribner despite it being "in one way ethically despicable."

He said there is no "glimmer of innocence" in books, in booksellers, or book readers. "We are in and part of something that is despicable." He said books and booksellers are not "in and of themselves doing something useful."

Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America, emphasized that free expression also involves "the public's right to know, and that access to knowledge, which includes the knowledge of the horrible and the shocking, as well as the reassuring and the righteous, is one of the great privileges of living in anything resembling a democracy." Bookstores, she continued, have "a special responsibility because our freedom to read is fundamental to ensuring our right to know."

She called current book banning efforts part of "a radical assault on academic freedom, on free speech, and on the freedom to read, teach and learn." She urged "at least some" bookstores to provide "access to a wide range of ideas" and to keep doors "open to knowledge," while recognizing that bookstores can promote the titles and authors they choose.

She said that "the solution can't be to constrain other speech that is protected," which "often comes back to hurt those it is intended to help." She noted that some question whether "selling a book equals its endorsement. I think that's a dangerous path to go down. It could quickly leave us with a very limited selection of books and ideas available to the public." Similarly, "purchasing a book doesn't equal endorsement," since many people buy books "to find out what we think about them."

Vicky Titcomb, owner of Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, Mass., called it "frightening these days to read the news and see facts denied and really harmful and dangerous lies spread, all under the protection of free expression." She noted that stores make decisions every day about who to represent and who not to sell. She said, "If we don't stand up for free expression as booksellers, who do we want to regulate what we can read, write, speak or sell? Who will be the arbiter of what is worthy and what should be banned? How and where do we draw the line for ourselves and who should do it for us?"

Derrick Young, co-owner and co-founder of MahoganyBooks in Washington, D.C., and Oxon Hill, Md., talked about how Black bookstores are often perceived as outside the norm, and the Black community is seen as monolithic. What he wants to do is "make sure my community is heard, that whatever their perspective, whether conservative or liberal, wherever they come from, that they have a book that tells their story so that they can be seen or represented somewhere." For him, free expression means "everyone can disagree about something, but having the ability to speak my truth and not to be banned, not to be told that what I view is radical, but to have a space where we can talk and communicate in the idea of free expression, so that we all have agency, that we all feel empowered."

As a bookseller, he said, he wants people "to come into my space, be seen, be heard and walk out feeling empowered." An important part of free expression, he continued, is that our "stories [are] important and we have to tell these stories."

He also emphasized that handselling is a key part of being a bookseller for him and in his stores. Getting to know a customer is really important: "What is it they're looking for, what are their goals, what stimulates them, what do they enjoy in the beginning, are they open to being challenged in their worldview?"

His goal is to have customers "come back, willing to be challenged, whatever their worldview, and giving them the ability to have agency over themselves, and not be dictated to by someone else."

After the general discussion, many viewers joined breakout sessions for booksellers that were, according to some participants, "lively, civil and productive."

Roebling Point Books & Coffee Opening a New Location in Newport, Ky.

Roebling Point Books & Coffee, Covington, Ky., will host a grand opening celebration on Small Business Saturday for its new second location, at 601 Overton St. in Newport. Noting that just two years ago the business almost closed, CityBeat reported that "the decade-old store--cherished by locals and visitors alike--was threatened by a significant rent increase, constant construction and closure of its main thoroughfare, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge." 

The shop's popularity and beloved neighborhood status prevailed, however. Owner Richard Hunt was able to strike a deal with the landlord on rent, and the original search for a new location evolved into the search for a second location. After exploring options, Hunt decided to open the second Roebling Books & Coffee in Newport. 

"A city needs a bookstore like a body needs a soul," Hunt said. "I think reading fortifies a sense of community and if you're really going to have a neighborhood or a town that can be proud of itself and the work that it does, a bookstore can be your biggest resource."

Like his flagship Covington location, the new store will provide free meeting space for community groups and organizations. "We've always hosted, for example, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth events," he said. "The community room used to have 20 meetings a week pre-Covid. And that's where I think the 'soul' part comes in. When you have six to 12 to 15 people getting together to talk about a subject they are passionately interested in and want to change, that's a soul."

Located across the Licking River, "far enough to coexist with the Covington store but close enough to manage," the new space "effortlessly blends into the neighborhood," CityBeat noted. "On the corner of Sixth and Overton streets, a sizable outdoor foyer welcomes patrons while the inside offers two large rooms with an industrial-yet-cozy feel.... Exposed brick peeks from behind bookshelves lining the walls, which will debut a new method for displaying books that Hunt is particularly excited about. Books at the Newport location will be organized with the covers facing out, a tactic that makes more sales."

"Having been in publishing for so long, we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the cover," he says. "On the spine you get a half an inch and four words, but it doesn't have the immediacy or the impulse to pick it up. I have been lucky enough to have been to 500 bookstores around the country, and the people that really use covers sell more books, they have more people picking them up."

Fine Print Bookshop 'Brought Lovingly to Life' in Saline, Mich.

Fine Print Bookshop, which opened in September at 109 E. Michigan Ave. in downtown Saline, Mich., "is being brought lovingly to life by the husband and wife team of Lindsay and William Gibson," the Sun Times News reported. 

"We want to provide a store that is inclusive and covers as wide a range of books as possible. We want a bookstore that feels like the community's bookstore," Bill Gibson said.

The bookshop's interior bookstore features floor-to-ceiling windows on its north and south side, with a lounge area near the entrance. "It is a work in progress as the Gibsons add bookshelf after bookshelf to their space," the Sun Times News wrote, adding that the "selection is a well-balanced mix that goes all the way from early readers through young adult and avant garde content. While there are plenty of classic works to choose from, the emphasis is decidedly on contemporary literature from across just about every subject you can think of."

When asked what the most surprising thing was about making a new bookstore, Lindsay Gibson said it was "just how happy people have been to have a bookstore, to come in here and see what it looks like. That is the most surprising and validating thing that has happened so far."

Downtown Books Opens in Dothan, Ala.

Downtown Books launched this week with a soft opening at 150 N. Foster St. in Dothan, Ala. WTVY reported that the "newest local business is an independent bookstore with a specifically curated collection. Due to supply chain issues some things aren’t finished yet, the shop is waiting on a name sign for outside along with some other smaller things." The bookstore's soft opening for the holiday season will be followed by a grand opening celebration after the new year.

Owner Stacy Fountain said a lot fell into place over the past nine months to make the bookstore possible: "It’s more than just about selling a book, it’s about creating an experience and environment where people can come connect and have conversations about ideas and so when you create that kind of environment which is really what we want to do its more than just a place to buy a book." 

Introducing herself in an Instagram post earlier this fall, Fountain had note that she "is excited to be bringing an independent, local bookstore to the Dothan area. She grew up in Dothan and moved back here 17 years ago. She loves buying, reading, and collecting books of all genres, but has a special passion for children’s literature and encouraging families to create their own, unique family culture through reading books together. (More on that in future posts.) Her hope for Downtown Books is to create a place for community and conversation that inspires people of all ages to love reading and to find their stories."

UC Santa Cruz Partnering with Akademos

The University of California Santa Cruz has partnered with online bookstore platform Akademos and will start transitioning to digital textbook and course materials sales next month.

The transition will continue through the rest of the current academic year, with the platform slated to be fully launched in time for the Fall 2022 semester. UCSC's Bay Tree Bookstore, meanwhile, will focus on store-branded apparel and merchandise. 

"I welcome this new platform to support the course materials at an affordable price to the students," said professor Pradip Mascharak. "Akademos will take care of all the licensing of the e-books from the suppliers thereby making it easy for the instructor to adopt such teaching aids for his or her courses."


Video: City Books Channels Love Actually for Shop Local Message

City Books, Pittsburgh, Pa., recently posted a parody video, Shop Small Actually, on Twitter to encourage holiday shoppers to avoid Amazon this year by shopping locally instead. Pennsylvania News Today reported that the video is a parody of the iconic Love Actually scene in which Mark (played by Andrew Lincoln) finally expresses his feelings for Juliet (played by Keira Knightley). In the City Books version, shop owner Arlan Hess appears at the door of scene partner and husband Patrick Schmidt.

"I rely almost exclusively on social media for bookstore marketing, so I can use it across our channels and run as close to a minute as possible so that people can see it multiple times. I wanted something recognizable to pull," Hess said. "One of TikTok's followers wanted information about why shopping on Amazon was bad. Anyway, I wanted to put together an 'Avoid Amazon' campaign, so I decided to combine the two... Love, Actually is a recognizable meme--and it's a Christmas movie--so I thought it would be fun to recreate."

She added that it didn't take long to convince her husband to participate: "He was very romantic about it. He wanted to make sure we got the kissing scene right, so we practiced it several times."

Cool Idea of the Day: 'Give & Take Wall'

"Come visit our queer give and take wall today! You can pledge something for someone else or pick up an item if you fit the description," Under the Umbrella Bookstore, Salt Lake City, Utah, posted on Facebook yesterday. "Seeing people give to and take from this wall has been one of the most joyful parts of running the store so far!

"ID: a brown bulletin board called the Give & Take Wall." The process: "Give: Pledge anything in the shop to someone else. Pay at the counter and tape your pledge here. Take: If you fit the description on a card, bring it to the counter to receive the item free, no questions asked."

Personnel Changes at University of Chicago Press

Laura Waldron is joining the University of Chicago Press as global sales director, effective January 18. She has been marketing director at the University of Pennsylvania Press since 1997 and been commissioning editor for the Penn Studies in Global Public Health series. Earlier she was a sales rep in the mid-Atlantic for the University Marketing Group and was assistant to the sales director and assistant to the literature editor at Princeton University Press. She is also the author of Museums of Philadelphia: A Guide for Residents and Visitors (Westholme Publishing).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Paul McCartney on Fresh Air

Fresh Air repeat: Paul McCartney, author of The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present (Liveright, $100, 9781631492563).

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

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Michael Symon, author of Fix It with Food: Every Meal Easy: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Anyone with Autoimmune Issues and Inflammation (Clarkson Potter, $32.50, 9780593233108).

Jimmy Kimmel Live repeat: Kal Penn, author of You Can't Be Serious (Gallery, $28, 9781982171384).

TV: Washington Black; Fleishman Is in Trouble

Ernest Kingsley Jr. has been cast in the title role and Iola Evans also stars in Washington Black, the adaptation of Esi Edugyan's novel, which received a straight-to-series order at Hulu, Deadline reported. Sterling K. Brown is starring in and executive producing the project, with Twilight Zone writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds adapting the limited series for 20th Television.

Washington Black is executive produced by Hinds, Brown under his Indian Meadows Productions banner, The Gotham Group's Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Jeremy Bell, Lindsay Williams and DJ Goldberg, Anthony Hemingway and Jennifer Johnson. Esi Edugyan is co-producer.


Jesse Eisenberg  will play the title character opposite Lizzy Caplan in FX's Fleishman Is in Trouble, a limited series adaptation of Taffy Brodesser-Akner's debut novel. Deadline reported that the project was created by Brodesser-Akner, who also serves as a writer. She, will executive produce with Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Susannah Grant as well as Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris who are directing the first block of the series. Fleishman Is in Trouble will be produced by ABC Signature and be available exclusively on FX on Hulu.

Books & Authors

Awards: Hay Festival Book of the Year, Costa Book Shortlists

Deborah Levy's Real Estate was named the Hay Festival Book of the Year 2021, for which hundreds of book lovers nominated their favorite titles of the year online. The announcement came on the eve of Hay Festival Winter Weekend, which is running November 24-28 as the festival's first ticketed, in-person events in the U.K. for two years. 

Gareth Howell-Jones, bookshop manager at Hay Festival, said: "Blending personal history, gender politics, philosophy, and literary theory, Real Estate is a compulsively readable narrative and a favorite among festivalgoers this year. The book was a bestseller at our spring event and we are delighted to celebrate it as our title of 2021."


Shortlists in five categories have been announced for the 2021 Costa Book Awards, recognizing some of the most enjoyable books published in the last year by authors living in the U.K. and Ireland. Category winners, who each receive £5,000 (about $6,715), will be announced January 4, and the £30,000 ($40,300) overall winner of the Costa Book of the Year will be named February 1. See the complete Costa Book Awards shortlists here.

Reading with... Thomas Bardenwerper

Thomas "Buddy" Bardenwerper is the author of Mona Passage (Syracuse University Press, November 15, 2021), a novel of about a Cuban émigré and his attempt to reunite with his sister. Bardenwerper served five years in the U.S. Coast Guard, participating in humanitarian and law enforcement missions from the Gulf of Maine to the Caribbean Basin. After being medically retired for type 1 diabetes in 2018, Bardenwerper began a joint degree program at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Upon graduating this spring, Bardenwerper will be moving to Miami with his wife and daughter.

On your nightstand now:

I just started The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. I'm only a few chapters in, but I can already tell that this is a case where the book is better than the movie--and the movie was a classic!

I also recently polished off The Year of Dangerous Days by Nicholas Griffin and The Corporation by T.J. English. Since my family and I will be moving to Miami, I'm trying to immerse myself in South Florida history.

Oh, and as parents of a baby girl, my wife and I have memorized Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton and Give Me Grace by Cynthia Rylant.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved the The King's Stilts by Dr. Seuss. The dastardly nizzards! The lazy patrol cats! The nefarious Lord Droon! How Dr. Seuss packed that much drama and humor into 20 pages is beyond me.

When I was older, my sister gave me The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. I read it at the perfect age, as I was young enough to still have my wonder and imagination but old enough to appreciate emotion, struggle and relationships. And, like Peekay, I had recently fallen in love with the sport of boxing.

Your top five authors:

J.K. Rowling--more on her below!

Gabriel García Márquez. The first fiction I ever read and thought, "Wow, this is the work of a genius," was No One Writes to the Colonel.

Tom Wolfe. Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full were both tremendous social commentaries, and I don't think there is another author who can make me laugh the way Wolfe can. I also respect how Wolfe did things his way even when the titans of literature did not approve.

Mario Vargas Llosa. I found The Feast of the Goat to be quite powerful, especially after having written my college thesis about that monster Rafael Trujillo. Also, Vargas Llosa's Notes on the Death of Culture had me underlining passages, not something I normally do when reading for pleasure!

Alex Haley. Not a lot of people know that Haley was a Coastie. He started out during World War II writing love letters on behalf of his shipmates and later on became the Coast Guard's first "Chief Journalist," a position created entirely for him!

Book you've faked reading:

Roberto Bolaño's 2666 defeated me--I hit a wall with the third storyline. However, my brother-in-law is a huge Bolaño fan, so I may have to take another crack at it to earn his respect!

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Prisoner in His Palace by my older brother Will Bardenwerper. This is the true and remarkable story of the 12 American military policemen who guarded Saddam Hussein during the months before his execution.

All four of my older siblings have been role models for me, but Will has been particularly instrumental in guiding me along the path that has led to Mona Passage. Will's decision to join the Army in the wake of 9/11 inspired me to join the Coast Guard, and his decision to walk away from a secure job to write The Prisoner in His Palace inspired me to tell the story of Galán, Gabriela and Pat.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving. The large image of the Virgin of Guadalupe wearing sunglasses against a bright yellow background immediately grabbed me at a bookstore in Key West.

Book you hid from your parents:

I'm blessed to come from a family that values reading and the free exchange of ideas, so I've never had to hide a book. That said, I don't think my parents would've loved Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.

Book that changed your life:

That's a pretty high bar! I will say that Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton--which I read while my wife was pregnant--gave me an insight into the relationship between a mother and her baby. I would like to think that this helped me be a better father and husband, but you would have to ask my wife!

Favorite line from a book:

That's a tough one. However, the following line from The Caine Mutiny recently struck me. The protagonist, Willy Keith, is on the verge of graduating from Naval training and heading off to the war when he receives a visit from his ailing father. As the older man departs, Herman Wouk writes: "Willie looked after the limping figure, and vaguely thought that he ought to have talked more with his father before the war."

Five books you'll never part with:

A Sailor's Odyssey by Alvin Chester, a Naval officer who commanded my late grandfather's destroyer escort during World War II. My grandfather was a voracious reader and annotated all his books. When I read his marked-up copy shortly after joining the Coast Guard--and several years after his passing--I felt like I was having a conversation with him.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. Before she became famous, Curtis was my high school English teacher. It wasn't until I read her poignant debut novel that I realized that you could be both a normal person like Curtis and a successful writer. Without this seemingly obvious insight, I'm not sure I would have had the confidence to try to write Mona Passage.

Old School by Tobias Wolff. Little did I know when I read this coming-of-age story that Tobias Wolff would judge the inaugural Veterans Writing Award hosted by Syracuse University Press. Had it not been for Wolff believing in Mona Passage, we would not be having this conversation today.

Captain Pantoja and the Special Service by Mario Vargas Llosa. A beloved mentor of mine gave me a copy in the original Spanish, and I've slowly been working my way through it. I'll definitely have to read the English translation at some point to pick up on the story's more subtle elements.

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. I read this engrossing novel about a young infantry officer in Vietnam during one of my Coast Guard patrols deep into the Caribbean. I probably learned more from Marlantes than I did at Officer Candidate School!

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

Any of the Harry Potter installments. The Deathly Hallows came out the summer before my senior year of high school when I was on a school-sponsored trip to Glasgow, Scotland, with one of my best friends. Mind you, the drinking age in Scotland was 18, and we had zero adult supervision. So you would think that these two American football players would be running wild from pub to pub. Nope! Instead, we were reading the last chapters of The Deathly Hallows out loud to each other in our dorm room. If that isn't proof of J.K. Rowling's genius, I don't know what is.

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:

Still Life: A Novel by Sarah Winman (Putnam, $27, 9780593330753). "This is one of those books that captured my heart and would not let go--the characters will stay with you for a long time. A makeshift family story covering several decades is beautifully developed and oh so funny and tender." --Jude Sales, Readers' Books, Sonoma, Calif.

The Perishing: A Novel by Natashia Deón (Counterpoint, $26, 9781640093027). "Reading The Perishing feels like falling through a shimmering kaleidoscope of stories that, when pieced together, tell the past, present, and future of an immortal soul. It makes me excited for the future of literature." --Caroline Barbee, Friendly City Books, Columbus, Miss.

All the Feels: A Novel by Olivia Dade (Avon, $15.99, 9780063005587). "A famous 'troublesome' actor is saddled by his showrunners with a minder to keep him out of trouble. But the more time they spend together, they less they want to be apart. This slow-burn romance will especially appeal to fans of nerdy pop culture." --Stefani Kelley, The Book Nook, Brenham, Tex.

For Ages 3 to 7
Gladys the Magic Chicken by Adam Rubin, illus. by Adam Rex (Putnam, $18.99, 9780593325605). "A perfect combination of silly and profound. Is Gladys magic, or do the humans who believe in her make their own magic? Follow Gladys's roundabout journey through a slightly less than historical version of ancient times and no matter what your age, you will believe, or just have a good time." --Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books, Wayne, Pa.

For Ages 8 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Manu: A Graphic Novel by Kelly Fernández (Graphix, $24.99, 9781338264197). "Manu is a very different kind of kid at her all-girls magic school. Her talents are unpredictable, and she's quick to anger. As she starts to discover why, readers will relate to the many emotions and frustrations of growing up and feeling like you don't fit in. I loved Manu!" --Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books & Music, Millerton, N.Y.

For Teen Readers
Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert (Balzer + Bray, $19.99, 9780063056664). "A captivating book that not only teaches readers about the Tulsa Race Massacre but also looks at the bigger picture of what is the United States. Filled with history centered around different racial communities, the book does justice to those who did not learn certain history lessons in traditional educational institutions." --Melissa Silvester, Boogie Down Books, Bronx, N.Y.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Children's Review: On the Move: Home Is Where You Find It

On the Move: Home Is Where You Find It by Michael Rosen, illus. by Quentin Blake (Candlewick Press, $17.99 hardcover, 144p., ages 10-14, 9781536218107, January 4, 2022)

Poet Michael Rosen delves into his moving family history, lending a personal reflection to the contemplative and compelling anthology about migration and refugees, On the Move. Forty-nine of Rosen's poems, evocatively illustrated by Quentin Blake, are arranged in four sections--Family and Friends, The War, The Migrants in Me and On the Move Again--through which Rosen prompts readers to consider the connectedness of one family's experience to the broader movement of people in crisis worldwide.

Rosen captures his youthful moments in London with a stream of consciousness, memories pouring forth poem by poem, family stories and mundane encounters evoking nostalgia while inviting reader reflection. A particularly unflinching series including Rosen's poems "The Absentees" and "The French Uncles" considers the empty spaces left behind by lost loved ones (his Jewish kin), and humble attempts to fill an absence with shared memories or silence. Elsewhere, Rosen juxtaposes the universality of the human experience of migration with an admonishment of xenophobia and persecution: "We say, 'Never again.'/ But/ .../ it can happen again. It does happen again. It has happened again."

Former U.K. Children's Laureate Rosen (We're Going on a Bear Hunt) arranged previously published works for this collection, which he bookends with a helpful introduction entitled "Migrant Poetry" and backmatter that includes a link to some of his spoken poems. Although he occasionally rhymes, as in "Yours Hopefully" and "On the Move Again," Rosen primarily unspools his sobering thoughts through accessible free verse. The book's clean design suits upper-middle-grade readers, although it is likely to appeal to adults, as well.

Blake (The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots) punctuates the anthology with evocative watercolor illustrations. His distinctive, jagged line art conveys a camaraderie and hopefulness among the displaced figures as they move across land and water on double-page spreads with increasingly saturated violet hues. There is a kinetic urgency to Blake's work here, and the anonymous and atmospheric art complements Rosen's message extremely well.

In these honest and pensive poems, Rosen probes his own past to prompt readers to contemplate their own feelings around global displacement. Although Rosen offers a handful of answers about his missing family, it is the unanswered questions that will sit with readers long after finishing the book. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

Shelf Talker: An anthology of 49 deeply personal poems artfully explores the human experience of displacement.

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